NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, the first non-governmental organization focused exclusively on autistic adults, announced a $100,000 endowment fund at Rutgers University earlier this year.
The groundbreaking fund, known as the “The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Adult Autism Family Support Fellowship and Resource Guide Fund,” will help teach Rutgers School of Social Work graduate students to work as clinicians in order to help improve the lives of families with an autistic adult.
The fund will provide fellowships for four people to work hands-on with families with an adult autistic person as well as help create an online resource guide designed to help families, agencies, and organizations.
Dr. Cathryn Potter, the dean of the Rutgers School of Social Work, will be one of the two heads of the fellowship program along with Professor Mark W. Lamar.
"We are excited to launch The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Adult Autism Family Support Fellowship and Resource Guide Fund at the School of Social Work and share the vision of Linda Walder and the foundation’s board that more needs to be done to help the family members of adults with ASD as caregivers and navigators of their lives,” said Potter.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez was on hand for the announcement back in September.
Menendez applauded the new initiative, saying: “I am hopeful it can become a model for the nation, so that we can best ensure children with autism are able to fulfill their God-given potential and become successful, independent adults.”
Designed to increase awareness, opportunities, and knowledge about aging and autism, DJFF offers endowed programs at Brown University, Yale, and the University of Miami, and now Rutgers.
Each serves a specific area relating to adult autism: research, program development, fostering creativity and expression through the arts, and counseling and resources for family members of adults on the spectrum.
The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation was founded by Linda J. Walder in 2002 and named in honor of her deceased son Danny. Since then, the foundation has helped autistic people and their families with all aspects of adult life including job training, residential living, the arts, recreation, health and wellness, and socialization.
"Our aim is to ensure that for generations to come there will be an impactful focus on adult autism," said Walder, noting that there are more than 3.5 million Americans living with autism.
"We need to do more to understand adult autism and to create as many paths as we can for adults to participate in and contribute to community life," Walder continued. "It is a matter of human rights for all autistic adults to be accepted for who they are and to live the fullest lives possible.”
Walder also added that Rutgers now has the first program to be dealing specifically with providing aid to families in this situation, families who were largely on their own when dealing with their autistic loved ones.