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March 30, 2015
Autism Resource Specialist Profiles: Shari King from Boston Medical Center

Tags: Autism Resource Specialist Profile

My history with those who have special needs dates back nearly as far as I can remember.  As a young child, I would volunteer to serve meals and sing songs with my family during holidays at a nearby residential center.  During my high school years, I was the Regional Vice President of Special Projects for my religious youth group, tasked with planning and overseeing weekend retreats for my peers to partner with youths with disabilities.  Those weekends were among my favorite and now, more than two decades later, I can vividly recall precisely how they felt.  After graduating from BU, I was a typical twenty-something; meandering my way through entry-level jobs that were marginally connected to my communications major that was hardly well defined.  I responded to a job posting for an overnight counselor at a residential school for children with autism.  And so began my career. 

I would say there are many hats I have professionally worn since that time—teacher, therapist, counselor, trainer and many people I’ve met along the way who have been instrumental sources of inspiration—family members, school professionals, my students/clients/patients themselves.  My greatest privilege, however, has been while serving in my current role as Autism Resource Specialist and Program Manager to the BMC Autism Program where I feel thoroughly blessed to work alongside some of the most knowledgeable, resourceful, dedicated and deeply compassionate clinicians and professionals one could know, those who are relentless in their pursuit to support families with struggles far greater than I can even imagine—those of food insecurity, homelessness, significant language barriers and social isolation.  BMC’s hallmark as an institution is to provide “Exceptional Care without Exception” and I believe wholeheartedly that we do just that.

Our Autism Program is a multi-staffed, multi-tiered, comprehensive and culturally competent service delivery model comprised of two Autism Resource Specialists, a bi-lingual Family Navigator and a robust team of interns and volunteers.  We strive to meet the complex needs of families whose children not only face autism, but also the additional challenges of cultural, linguistic, educational, social and systematic barriers.  We form effective partnerships with schools, collaborate with local support organizations and draw upon a deep knowledge base of social service agencies to facilitate linkages and empower marginalized families to access the very best care for their children. 

The BMC Autism Program has had many successful achievements, the most recent of which are summarized here.  We’ve designed a unique parent training series called “Everyday Behavior Problems and Solutions” and have delivered a wide range of workshops and trainings to schools and local parent groups.  We’ve facilitated several teen social skills initiatives, including one most recently at the Dorchester Boys & Girls Club and collaborated with TILL Autism Support Center to help form more than a half dozen multi-lingual “Neighborhood Groups”. This past year, our TILL partnership led to the creation of a Parent Leadership in Autism Network (PLAN) which engages a diverse group of empowered caregivers of children & adolescents with ASD to serve as mentors and supports to other parents. 

Among the program’s most notable achievements is the curation of an expansive online resource library, with a wide-range of family friendly handouts and materials addressing common topics such as dealing with challenging behaviors (e.g. picky eating stimming behaviors and activity transitions), safety considerations including water safety, implementing augmentative communication strategies, social stories, a summer guide, relaxation guide and a number of creative supports and blog posts (e.g. healthy eating in your community and the link between theater and autism).

Most recently, the BMC Autism Program has expanded our reach with a rich social media presence. (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest).  Our future plans include launching an innovative teen mentoring network (TEAM) and conducting more widespread outreach to Latino families through a program called  “Autismo Boston.” 

The BMC Autism Program is steadfast in its mission to meet the needs of all families and to provide continued critical support to Boston’s low-income, racially, linguistically and ethnically diverse community.  Our services are neither billable nor reimbursable through insurance companies and thus rely on philanthropic support to maintain functioning, continued growth, and success.  For more information about how to become involved, please visit http://www.bmcautismprogram.org/

Also, be sure to check out BMC's Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd.

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