And that is just what Marguerite Simpson, and the 501c charity that bears her name, the Simpson Baber Foundation for the Autistic, Inc., has been doing ever since 1999.
The organization’s hallmark service is also its biggest, a program run in concert with Bayonne Medical Center and the Bayonne Board of Education, called The Busy Bee Early Intervention Program. Serving children 18 months to three years old, Busy Bee’s primary goal is to ready young children with autism for their entry into the world of education.
“It’s early intervention: once diagnosed, many parents call us looking for help. We have been very fortunate to have had a highly qualified and committed state-certified teacher running Busy Bee.” Simpson said. “It's really a way of identifying the children and getting them ready for school.”
When founded, Busy Bee was a first-of-its-kind program through which the educational and medical communities and community at large joined to provide necessary, but previously unavailable, services to developmentally disabled young children. About 125 youngsters have gone through the program.
Though Busy Bee is dormant now because of an employee gap, Simpson expects it to be back on its feet soon.
“We’re heading back to restart the program” she said. “It’s a goal.”
Started by Bayonne people, it primarily assists city residents, but the foundation’s programs have also served people from Jersey City, Hoboken, West New York, Union, Berkeley Heights, Neptune, and Alpine.
“We don’t charge a fee for any of our services. This program was available to parents at no cost.” Simpson said.
Among the foundation’s other offerings are the self-contained playgrounds, like the one at Woodrow Wilson School, and the life skills rooms at Woodrow Wilson, Washington School, and Bayonne High School, which have served between 500 and 1,000 children.
Busy Bee and the foundation received plaudits from the institute of former first lady Roslyn Carter in 2006. In 2010, People magazine, the New York Mets and Major League Baseball all recognized the organization. In New Jersey, the New Jersey Assembly and Russ Berrie Foundation have praised The Simpson Baber Foundation.
April is Autism Awareness Month, no better time, Simpson argued, to take her case for additional support to the public.
The group wants to set up a program for young adults who have gone through the youth program and are now looking to the future for a place to live and take care of themselves.
“We’d like to set up facilitated housing,” Simpson said. “Our goal is to provide lifespan services.”
The new program would be for those aged from about 21 to 28, and would bring them together living in the community with assistance.
“They’ve gotten out of school and realize there's a social component they're missing,” Simpson said. “Now these kids are 22, 23, and 24. And their parents aren't going to live forever. Many are high functioning and some have jobs. They are able to take care of themselves, but will need support services.”
What it is
Autism covers a spectrum of neurological disorders affecting one in every 110 children, according to Simpson Baber. Autism impairs brain development in communication and social interaction. It exhibits in inappropriate play, extreme social withdrawal, lack of facial affect, preoccupation and fixation, intense discomfort with new situations, people, or surroundings, and behavioral problems.
“The window for successful treatment of autism closes quickly in youth, and many doors to social/recreational opportunities open slowly, if at all,” Simpson said.
Simpson became involved in autism awareness when her son was diagnosed. At the time there few services. And even poorer outcomes.
“I figured we could make a difference,” Simpson said. “There was nothing. And there was very little hope at that time. We have come so far, and today there is hope.”
Ways to help
To contact the organization, write The Simpson Baber Foundation for the Autistic, Inc., P.O. Box 182, Bayonne, NJ 07002, visit simpson-baber.org, call (201) 858-9933, or email email@example.com.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.