Let's Talk

Let's Talk


Editorials by Tom Golisano

Every family dealing with autism deserves support

Democrat and Chronicle, Jun 23, 2018

By Tom Golisano, Founder of Paychex and the Golisano Foundation

If it seems that more people you know are facing autism, there’s a reason for it. The CDC says the rate of schoolchildren with autism doubled between 2004 and 2014, from 1 in 125 to 1 in 59.

Autism doesn’t discriminate. Not on the basis of race, geography, or social class. Parents and people dealing with autism need a place to turn. While many resources exist, some are hard to access, especially for families in urban and rural communities.

I know firsthand how overwhelming it is to navigate support systems. My experience raising a child with intellectual disabilities (IDD) was a driving force in my establishing the Golisano Foundation in 1985. I am proud of our work to create better opportunities for people with IDD, including leadership support for the new Golisano Autism Center.

When the Golisano Autism Center opens in 2019, it will serve as a central resource, the only one of its kind in our region, for families to access a full lifespan of autism-related services under one roof, in the City of Rochester.

We have made tremendous progress moving the Center forward.  In response to recent tragic events, our partners have mobilized certain aspects of the Center at a more rapid pace. I’m inspired by the work of the Center’s lead partners – AutismUp, Al Sigl Community of Agencies, CP Rochester and my Foundation – who realized families couldn’t wait for the Center to open to connect with vital supports.

We’re excited to announce that two essential resources will be available much sooner than originally planned.

One, a key service we will offer before the Center’s 2019 launch is support and assistance from a Family Autism Navigator. Staffed by a parent with firsthand experience and professional training to assist individuals and families in finding resources, the navigator will be based at the Boys & Girls Club in the City of Rochester, and will be active throughout the community by mid-July.

And two, by July 1, the Golisano Autism Center will launch a dedicated helpline – 1-866-AUTISM4 – staffed seven days a week by information-and-referral specialists. We’re working with 2-1-1 operators, who can help families understand the resources available for autism-specific needs and how to access existing services that may be unknown to families affected by autism.

Those living with autism in our community will not have to go on this journey alone. The Center’s strength is built on collaboration. I encourage those working to address autism in our community to connect with our partners at the Golisano Autism Center today. Together, we can support each and every family in finding the hope, the courage and the resources they need to meet these challenges, and succeed.