As we continue to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month, we wanted to bring a new nonprofit to the spotlight and share their story to help our Rug-Ed community increase understanding, awareness, and acceptance of people with autism.
Our dedication to supporting our community started the autism community and quickly blossomed into a mission to integrate technology to enrich learning and build the minds of tomorrow. Through our partnership with nonprofits like Jasmynn's Voice, we were connected to an Idaho nonprofit corporation, Lilly's Voice, who provides iPads and AAC software to children in need.
It is with immense joy that we share a few highlights from Stefanie, President of Lilly’s Voice on their story and nonprofit organization.
Why did you start your nonprofit? Why did you name it Lilly's Voice?
My daughter, Lilly, is the beautiful inspiration behind Lilly's Voice. She is autistic, has apraxia, and is considered non-speaking. We never wanted her to feel like she couldn't communicate with others, so at age 3 we purchased an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device for her. Having the ability to communicate has helped her grow into the thriving 9 year old she is today, however not all children (or adults) are able to obtain an AAC device easily. Many parents try to work through the school district or their insurance company, only to be given the run around, be told their child needs to meet antiquated prerequisites, and are eventually waitlisted or rejected all together. AAC devices should be easy to acquire for all anyone that needs one, however since they aren't, many parents end up purchasing their own and then try to help their child without the aid of professionals. So what happens if a parent jumps through all the right hoops, is continuously rejected, and cannot afford AAC on their own? That's when Lilly's Voice comes in! Our mission is to provide communication devices to those that need it, similar to Lilly, but can't get it themselves, because ALL children deserve a voice!
What is the significance of having Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices?
Whenever trying to understand the impact of an AAC device, I encourage people to participate in the following exercise: Go one day without speaking vocally, texting, emailing, using pictures, writing, signing, or any other method in which they can communicate with others. Just one day, without a single form of communication. I challenge people to see how it feels to be denied the most basic of human rights, to be locked in your own mind without a way to express a thought, request, concern, emotion, or even a greeting with another person. I assure you, if everyone did that exercise, even for an hour and not a full day… they would understand the significant and immediate impact that AAC devices can have on nonspeaking, or unreliably speaking, individuals. AAC Devices are life changing!
How does it feel to provide families with these devices allowing them to better communicate with their loved ones?
It’s an absolute honor and privilege to assist these families by purchasing these devices, providing training, and supporting them as they teach their loved one to communicate with their new language. I wish we weren’t needed as much as we are, but Im grateful we exist, and have raised enough donations to change the lives of so many people. We have sent out of 96 AAC Devices since launching in May of 2021, but new applicants come in weekly… so we have a lot more work to be done.
What does Autism Awareness mean to you?
To be honest - Autism Awareness is a really great start, but I definitely want more. While it’s awesome to be aware of something, it is far greater to acknowledge autism and demonstrate ACCEPTANCE and accommodation for all autistic individuals, versus settling for awareness. My hope is that someday, we will no longer encounter people that are unaware of autism or act caught off guard when they meet an autistic child or adult. I look forward to the time when we won’t need a month set aside to educate about autism, because it will be so commonplace that everyone is already very aware of it. I pray for the day, hopefully soon, when autistic individuals will be ACKNOWLEDGED and ACCEPTED for who they are – without any confusion or judgement.
Get Involved and Give Back!
This year, we are supporting two nonprofits in the Autism community with a 10% sitewide sale and a portion of our sale proceeds to support these two organizations.
To shop our new products and accessories, please click here. Use UniquelyYou at checkout to receive your 10% discount. A portion of every purchase in April will be donated to Jasmynn's Voice and Lily’s Voice.