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Partner Spotlight

Campaign Champion Works With Libraries To Increase Community Awareness of Developmental Disabilities
Lisa Kowalski
Campaign champion, Michigan

Lisa Kowalski (left) reading with her son Aaron.“My desire is to spread child development awareness throughout my community in the hope that it will reach audiences nationwide, especially parents. Parents need to know that there are many resources available to them, but the best tool they have is themselves,” says campaign champion Lisa Kowalski.

Lisa always had a natural interest in child development. Her interest turned to passion when the younger of her two boys, Aaron, was diagnosed with autism. Lisa had been comparing Aaron’s development to her oldest child’s and kept noticing delays. “The first two times I brought him to his pediatrician with concerns, I was brushed off and told to wait three months,” says Lisa.

Yet, Lisa knew something wasn’t right. She began monitoring Aaron’s behavior and writing her observations on index cards. Three months later, Lisa took her index cards with her to Aaron’s doctor, packed with information. Using this information in conjunction with their own tests and observations, Aaron’s doctor and specialists were able to diagnose him as having autism.

Driven by her desire to connect with her son, Lisa subsequently learned all she could about autism. She pursued every educational opportunity, support group, book, program, or volunteer opportunity she could get. By working with her local autism support community and getting involved in Aaron’s education, she discovered the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign materials.

“When I found these materials, I knew I had to share them with others, especially with the underserved groups in my community,” says Lisa. “Since my son Aaron loves to read, I thought the perfect place to share the materials was through the public library system.”

Lisa worked with her local library system and the Autism Society of America-Oakland County Chapter (Michigan) to launch a book donation project. At the end of the project, books worth more than $9,000 were distributed to 30 public libraries in her county. The books focused on autism spectrum disorders and a variety of child development topics, from sensory awareness to the needs of siblings of kids with special needs. Each library was able to select books from a list of more than 75 titles. In addition to the books, Lisa ensured that each library received a box of “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” materials. From a resource area in each library, the campaign materials and new books were displayed and distributed.

“The response was incredible!” exclaims Lisa. “Aaron and I visited all the libraries over the summer and saw that the books and campaign materials were being used by the community. It was so great to see and hear such positive feedback.”

Lisa’s project helps parents learn about developmental milestones so they can act quickly if they notice their child is experiencing delays. Her experience reinforces the importance of empowering parents to talk with their children’s doctors and seek early intervention services if they feel their child is not meeting developmental milestones.“ My advice to parents is to observe your child; write down all your observations and don’t be afraid to voice your concerns with your doctor. Early intervention can positively impact your child’s development,” encourages Lisa.

For more information on how you can reach out to health professionals in your area, visit the How to Get Involved page of the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” website.

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