The Mid-Michigan Autism Association (MMAA)was founded in 2008 by a group of parents and professionals that wanted to understand the best treatment options and local resources for individuals with autism. Since its inception, the MMAA has become a staple for area families looking for support, education, events and a community of people they can rely on.
“One of the most important things that the association provides is a place for people to connect, through our website, monthly newsletter and Facebook page,” said Cathy Blatnik, board member of MMAA. “It’s a completely free resource which is amazing, but it’s also a community. People can connect on a level that other families may not understand.”
The all-volunteer association is made up of local people passionate about working to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families. Early on, MMAA realized that the work they were doing applied to families living with developmental disabilities of all kinds. With this in mind, the association has worked to produce materials and events that are driven by autism-related issues but are not exclusive to autism. This same sentiment is echoed in their messaging, and their ideals are shared by those closest to the organization.
“We want to support all families. We want to provide support and opportunities to all the families in the community that are looking for it,” Blatnik said.
MMAA has seen remarkable success over the years. A few notable accomplishments include their work with law enforcement, first responders, EMTs, firefighters and parks and recreation staff to increase understanding of autism and intellectual disability and how to best assist families in times of need. In addition, MMAA has worked with the Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties as well as YMCA of Greater Lansing to train summer camp counselors in the basics of autism, improving access to quality summer programming for families. The Association currently provides free training to organizations wishing to become autism “aware,” and autism “friendly.”
The MMAA has created new events within the community and works to partner with area organizations to provide new opportunities for families. Over the last few years, the organization has collaborated with the 4th Wall (a theatre program for individuals with special needs) and the Special Olympics and worked with local organizations to create social opportunities for families, including discounted evenings at Jumpin’ Jax, swimming at Goldfish Swim School, outings to Lansing Lugnuts, hosting Sensory Show Times at Celebration Cinema and events at the Michigan State University Community Music School.
“We work to create and support events that further our mission and help educate the community about autism. We want to be a resource to further educate the community and open more doors moving forward,” Blatnik said.