As parents of a teenage son with Asperger's, we know first hand the difficulties of raising a child with autism. Years of costly therapies and treatments in the hopes of having your child meet developmental milestones. The sacrifices the family and typical siblings have to make to their social activities to accommodate a child that can't stand being out in loud, bright places. And the stares from strangers when your child is on the floor having what appears to be nothing more than a bratty temper tantrum, when in fact they are having a full-blown sensory meltdown.
So when Luis Viera, a fellow attorney and dad of a son on the spectrum, asked us to partner with him in creating this organization, we did not hesitate. We have been very blessed with what our son has accomplished and welcomed the opportunity to help others in the community.
Our hope is to be able to add to our sensory friendly events in the future and continue to fundraise to help as many families as possible through our needs based grants program for therapies.
Our family have attended the lawyer's Santa event for the last 2 years. What a great event for our 3 girls. Our 2 younger daughters who are not on the spectrum are able to join in a holiday activity together with their sister with out the usual stress that goes along with what an outing like this would normally entail. Our girls can do crafts together and open a present to get "in the mood" and if their sister is a bit wound up before her time to see Santa, theres a nice quiet space to settle down before going in to see the big man. The volunteers and photographers are super patient and friendly. We can't wait to go again this year!
The Gonzalez Family
There are many large, national organizations that assist families with children on the autism spectrum. But I wanted to find a smaller, grass roots type, non profit to donate to that would directly assist the children and their families in our community. As a parent of a child with autism it was very important to me to find just the charity that spends the largest percentage of monies raised on the actual cause and not on "overhead." LAAF ticks all the boxes for me. They are offer a great annual event that helps many children and financial assistance for the parents to help pay for therapies.
I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience with you concerning LAAF. Everyone in there organization are like Angel being sent to my family. We have a 12 year old autistic son. He is a very happy child . He plays baseball , soccer , but his love is surfing. If you met him you would be charmed by his great smile, his innocence . Jan has a 19 year old sister. He attends FACE - Florida Autistic Center of Excellence. We are very much involved in his development. I wish we can afford more therapy both speech and occupational. I wrote to LAAF , and I quickly got a response from an Angel of a women Sandy Santeiro. She was so excited to help us in obtaining help for Jan Sebastain. She directed me to start the process so that we can get Jan started with the sessions. I had to pay my evaluation which was not easy but I was so happy to get Jan awarded a grant to help with the therapy's. This pass weekend I was so overjoyed when I saw a check that was sent to me to reimbursed me for the evaluation . I have been very happy for all that LAAF has don for my son. I am a volunteer in Brandon (Coach) soccer for kids with disabilities . I also coach baseball with kids with special needs. People like Sandy Santeiro are very special . I could never repay her. But we all are very excited and appreciative of both the organization and Sandy for answering our prayers. Even though we live in crazy times there are still wonderful caring individuals like Sandy that dedicate their time to help other . Thank you for allowing me to share my story .
As both a volunteer and behavior analyst, I have had a very positive experience working with LAAF. I have volunteered at both of their sensory-friendly Santa events, and I am always impressed by their organization and attention to every detail that helps to make these events fun and successful for these children and their families. I have done a behavioral training at both events for the volunteers and everyone is so open to learning what they can do to help. They are very accommodating and do everything they can to make this a special, unique experience for the children, giving them lots of warmth, love, and support. As a clinician, I have clients who would not have had the access to ABA therapy they they did, were it not for these need-based grants, and that will benefit these children across their lifetime, giving them necessary skills to lead more happy, productive, and independent lives.
My daughter has autism and when I needed help to pay for her therapy they were there in a form of a grant. If it was not for LAAF my daughter would have missed out on about months of therapy
My son has Autism and our family has attended the Christmas party for the last 2 years. My son will not go to see Santa in a mall because it is to overwhelming. The last 2 years he has sat with Santa and we have been able to get a great picture. He also gets to make crafts with people who are so patient with him. The best part is that his little brother who does not have autism can also participate and loves going. We look forward to attending every year.
My sons and I attended your senory friendly santa event last year. Everyone was very helpful. We are looking forward to attending this year as well , also to let more local families we know about the event.
As a volunteer, I feel that working with LAAF has been a very rewarding and worthwhile experience. The organization is run by really genuine and nice people who are doing their best to contribute to the Tampa community. Additionally, they always make the volunteers feel appreciated. I would encourage anyone to give whatever support they can to this great cause!