The MetroWest Daily News
Monday April 12, 1999
By Deanna Zammit
News staff writer
NATICK – Buffalo Bills quarterback Doug Flutie and his son, Dougie, yesterday cut the ribbon at “Dougie’s Corner,” the Morse Institute Library’s new autism resource center in Natick.
“Hopefully, we’re going to make a difference in awareness,” said Flutie, a Natick resident whose 7-year-old son was diagnosed with autism three years age, “because God knows we all need it.”
The new center on the library’s second floor is one of three autism resource centers in the region, and the only one in MetroWest. The center houses more than 200 educational items, including videotapes, information packets, an Internet-linked computer and 120 books new books on autism.
“This is the best thing in the world,” said Lisa Clover, whose son Andrew has autism. “When Andrew was diagnosed three years age, there was nowhere to go. At that I think I lived on the Internet.”
The Center, which has been in the works for a year, is the result of a collaborative effort by the library, the Flutie Foundation and The Family Voice.
The Family Voice, a support and advocacy group for children with autism and their parents, approached the library about a year ago to house some of it’s research books. Soon after, the group presented the library with a grant. A $10,000 pledge from the Flutie foundation followed.
The foundation money will be donated to the center over a period of several years, and the library will use it to update books, videos and other materials and incorporate educational programs about autism for the public.
“They just have a lot of good information,” said Chris Campbell, whose son Richie has autism. “Because this is an ongoing thing. We’re constantly learning new things about autism and you really have to keep up to date.
The Center’s committee, composed of members of the library, the special education departments of public schools, and the Higachi School for children with autism, will determine which new materials should be included to fuel public awareness.
“We were really surprised how much fear we found and that our children weren’t really welcome into society,” said Rich Bissell, a member of Families Organizing for Change, an advocacy group for families with disabled children.
His son Eric has cerebral palsy. Eric’s twin brother, Aaron, has developmental disabilities.
What Dougie’s Corner is doing it “letting people know that children with disabilities are people first, are children first,” Bissell continues.
Clara Claiborne Park, the Autism Awareness Day’s keynote speaker and author of “The Siege,” defined autism through her experience of raising her now 40-year-old daughter, Jesse.
“Autism is when your 2-year-old daughter looks straight through you to the wall behind,” said Part, “Autism is when your 11-year-old daughter fills sheet by sheet with long division. Division by three, by 11, by 17.”
Park described her involvement with her daughter’s development as a siege, “because it was like assaulting a walled city.”
Today, Jesse is an accomplished artist whose brilliantly colored paintings of architecture incorporate the autistic person’s demand for precise detail. One sold for $1,000, and her mother is hoping for a New Year City art show.
She also works 27 hours per week in a college post office.
Park was quick to remind the audience that all this did not come overnight. The siege was long.
Educating a child with autism is a lifelong building block process. When Park started there were no resource.
There was no special education.
There was no autism resource center.
When you child is diagnosed with a disability, “You have to give up a lot of dreams,” said Bissell, who once dreamed of having the first set of twins in the NFL.
“And then create new ones,” his wife, Cindy, chimed in.
Bissell’s Meet Doug Flutie