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Autism Awareness for our ANGELS

April 27, 2021
By Gene Mangiante

Autism Awareness for our ANGELS this April

by Gene Mangiante, III

Board President, The ANGEL Program Fund, Inc.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism is currently diagnosed in 1 in 54 children and is four times more prevalent in boys. The causes of this disorder are widely speculated, but largely unknown. The month of April is recognized as Autism Awareness Month, which is dedicated to creating awareness, empathy, and support for individuals and families living with autism.

In 2010, Holy Rosary School created a “school within a school” for children living with autism. Holy Rosary’s vision of including all children in classroom education, regardless of their learning ability, became The ANGEL Program (Autism INtervention and Guidance for Early Learners). The ANGEL Program is a one-of-a-kind program that believes that these special children should learn in inclusive classrooms alongside their typical peers. Holy Rosary is the only private school in Memphis that integrates Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in an inclusive, year-round classroom setting for ages 3-11. ABA is the only scientifically proven therapy for children living with autism.

Here is what a few ANGEL parents have said:

Holy Rosary and The ANGEL Program have become a family to us. We have seen Christ's work through this school, through this program and their work with our son. They have loved and guided him (and us!) through it all, the good and the really bad.

Our son had less than 5 words when he started at age 3 and a half, and within the first couple of weeks of working with the ANGEL team, he was able to calmly communicate his needs to us. He has learned how to attend in a mainstream classroom and function as a typical child would. More than anything, we are now able to know our son in a way that we weren't sure we would ever experience. He can tell us what he is thinking and how he feels.

After we joined The ANGEL Program, our son has thrived. He has learned to speak better and play with others and has also developed ways to respond in social settings without outbursts or shutting down. He has transformed as a student and as a kid and is now thriving in his environment. He has friends, plays sports, communicates, and is never told that he cannot do something, because he can!

Since our son joined The ANGEL Program last summer, he has met more goals than I ever knew were possible. He went from playing alone, speaking mostly babble, little to no eye contact, to now having lots of new friends even "very best friends", speaking in clear sentences, and getting to look straight into those big brown eyes. I couldn't be more proud of our little boy and this program. My wish is for all children on the Autism Spectrum to have something as special as The ANGEL Program to grow and learn the way God made them.

To continue these success stories, The ANGEL Program requires a low student-teacher ratio, competitive salaries, and ongoing professional development for its staff. For these reasons, operating The ANGEL Program is costly and the tuition is expensive for families already burdened with significant therapy expenses. In 2016, The ANGEL Program Fund, Inc. (The Fund) was formed as the fundraising arm for The ANGEL Program and granted non-profit status as a 501(c)(3) organization. Over the last 5 years, The Fund has raised over $500,000 to support The ANGEL Program and provides more than 40% of the annual budget for The ANGEL Program.

To learn more, or to donate online, please visit www.theangelprogram.com.  Please save the date for our largest annual event, the Memphis Runs for Autism 5k, which will be held on Saturday, August 21, 2021. We are optimistically looking forward to a live event this year!

Please keep The ANGEL Program, the teachers, families, and students in your prayers. May God bless you for your generosity!