UPDATE: April 18th, 2015

As of April 2, 2015, Aid for Autistic Children & Families Foundation is adjusting it's mission to more specifically assist families and autistic person's individually. Times and the atmosphere concerning autistic people have changed and we're adjusting to meet that change. For those who have supported us (mainly the Tustin High School Key Club students, in Tustin, California), we are grateful and thankful to you all for seeing the bigger picture. Thank you to the organizations, business owners, entertainers, intellectuals, public servants, health care providers, a few members of the public, acquaintances and family members who believed in the original vision. Moving forward, we will continue to be part of the conversation concerning matters of fiscal responsibility for people on the spectrum and their families. We humbly thank you and graciously accept all continued support.

Michael Buckholtz

April 19, 2013

I want to thank everyone at for the amazing cookies served at the "A Celebration of Autism" event held yesterday, April 18, 2013. They were amazing and simply melted in my mouth. Wow! They were a hit! Thank you! 

AACF Puzzle Cookie

April 1, 2013

I want to thank everyone that is getting involved with Aid for Autistic Children & Families! We had a wonderful Autism Benefit Concert put on by the Tustin HS Key Club in Tustin, California. By all accounts it was a success! We're forever grateful to all the students involved. They showed such passion! That's what music can do. In addition, thanks goes out to their instructor/teacher Ms. Annie Tran. You are an inspiration and your energy seems limitless! Thank you!


We have one final event happening in the month of April (World Autism Awareness Day/Month). April 18th in Atlanta, Aid for Autistic Children and Southern Barter Club is having a fashion show mixer. Many music entertainment and Hollywood connections will be at this event. I'm so humbled they're taking time to help bring a much needed awareness for autism acceptance. If autism is not first accepted, then, it won't be taken seriously. Here's the flyer and a link to the event. Simply click directly on the flyer. Thank you all and until next year!

UPDATE! April 14th: Events, such as these, are constantly changing due to peoples schedules. We have a new flyer with updated information. Please take notice of the changes. Thanks, everyone, for your support!


March 2, 2013

The Tustin HS Key Club, with the guidance of uber math teacher, Ms. Annie Tran, pulled of another successful Autism Benefit Concert at the Tustin HS Sports Paladium. The music acts that performed were IM5, L2, Michael Stangliano, MoZaik and FutureLove just to name a few. This was a deeply humbling experience and I'm forever grateful to all the students and HS for allowing me to be a part of this effort. Thank you! Here's footage of the show and a few pics.

Tustin HS Key Club Autism Benefit Concert - March 1st 2013

Tustin Autism Benefit Concert | IM5 | L2 | Michael Stagliano | Brock Ciarlelli <- Check out the video pre and post Benefit Concert!



Billionaires Bill Gates, Warren Buffett want other billionaires to donate more to charity

Billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett want other American billionaires to give at least half their wealth to charity.

Temp Headline Image
Billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett want other American billionaires to give at least half their wealth to charity. In this photo provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Warren Buffett (l.), Melinda French Gates, and Bill Gates stand together, in 2006. (AP Photo/
(Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Diane Bondareff/AP)

By Donna Gordon Blankinship, Associated Press
posted June 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm EDT


Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett are launching a campaign to get other American billionaires to give at least half their wealth to charity.

Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Gates and Buffett have been campaigning for the past year to get others to donate the bulk of their wealth.

The friends and philanthropic colleagues are asking people to pledge to donate either during their lifetime or at the time of their death.

The handful of billionaires approached so far have embraced the campaign, said Stonesifer, a close friend of Gates who offered to speak about the effort. Four wealthy couples have already announced their pledges, including Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest of Philadelphia, John and Ann Doerr of Menlo Park, California, and John and Tasha Mortgridge of San Jose, California.

Gates and Buffett are calling their campaign The Giving Pledge. Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said in a letter introducing the concept that he couldn't be happier with his decision in 2006 to give 99 percent of his roughly $46 billion fortune to charity.

Buffett's plan will eventually split most of his shares of his Omaha, Nebraska, company between five charitable foundations, with the largest chunk going to the Gates Foundation.

Besides Buffett's pledge to the foundation, he also plans to give Class B Berkshire shares to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which he and his late first wife started, and the three foundations run by his three children.

Buffett said in 2006 that his other 73,332 Class A shares of Berkshire stock, worth about $8 billion, would also go to philanthropy, but he didn't spell out how those shares would be distributed.

Bill and Melinda Gates have made a similar pledge through the establishment of their Seattle-based foundation.

Gates and Buffett are asking each individual or couple who make a pledge to do so publicly, with a letter explaining their decision.

"The pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. It does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations," they explain in a written statement about the project.


AP Business Writer Josh Funk in Omaha contributed to this report.




Need a Real Sponsor here
July 9, 2008, 9:52 AM ET

How Autism Can Impact Family Finances

A toddler participates in an experiment on autism diagnostics.

Balancing a full-time job with the demands of taking care of healthy children is certainly challenging. But having an autistic child can impact the juggle on a whole other level. According to a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 39% of parents of autistic children have had to change their employment situation in order for their child to attend specialized school programs and receive adequate childcare. (Tip of the Juggle hat to Working Dad at

Autism has been on the rise in the last few decades. An article in yesterday’s WSJ about new diagnostic techniques for autism reports that one out of every 150 kids has the disorder, a tenfold increase from the 1980’s. There’s no known cure, but intensive treatment has proven effective. The article quotes one parent, Debbie Page, who says that her autistic son Gabe greatly improved after undergoing 250 hours of behavioral therapy.


Parents Struggle With Costs Of Their Children's Autism Care


The total cost for treating a child with autism can reach $5 million, but insurance companies rarely cover autism therapy and few states mandate it. CBS News reports that "an estimated one in every 150 children in America has autism and the number of reported cases is growing" while "parents are increasingly demanding that insurance companies cover the newest treatment."

CBS reports on the Oldham family in Virginia and how the parents Cassandra and Bill Oldham are dealing with the autism of Gareth and Korlan, two of their three children. CBS reports: "The emotional anguish was multiplied by financial stress."

"Intensive, one-on-one behavioral and speech therapy called 'applied behavior analysis therapy' or ABA helps the boys. But it costs up to $7,000 a month per child for the recommended 40 hours per week. The Oldhams struggled to pay even half the amount."

The family has insurance, "but not for autism therapy because Virginia isn't one of the seven states that mandate coverage. Businesses say adding autism to the list is too expensive."

Cassandra Oldham and state Delegate Bob Marshall "are pushing legislation that would force insurers to cover ABA, and say the costs of a policy would be minimal - somewhere between $2 and $4 a month" (Assuras, 6/21).

This information was reprinted from with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at

© Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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President Bush Announces FY 2009 Budget Priorities


President Bush Announces FY 2009 Budget Priorities

By: Carin Yavorcik

Plan proposes cuts to research and services

On Monday, February 4th, President Bush released his final proposed budget, laying out the Administration’s plans and priorities for FY 2009.

The president’s budget provides no new funding for the Combating Autism Act, and level-funds or cuts many important autism and disability-related programs. Specifically, the Administration’s budget provides only $16.1 million for the CDC’s autism program - a 0.5 percent cut from last year, and almost $2 million less than the amount recommended under the Combating Autism Act. The budget also provides no new increases for autism research at the National Institutes of Health or autism programs at the Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration.

The proposed budget also calls for the elimination of the Supported Employment State Grant program, cuts funding for the Office of Disability and Employment Policy by more than half, reduces programs for supported housing for people with disabilities by 30 percent, and proposes more than $17.3 billion in cuts to Medicaid, most of which will be shifted to the states.

The president’s plan increases IDEA funding by $337 million; however, the proposed level of $11.3 billion is $10.2 billion short of the amount called for by the authorizing legislation enacted in 2004. The Institute of Education Sciences funding for special education studies and evaluations was cut from $11 million to $9 million.

The Administration’s budget is only the first step in the lengthy appropriations process, as Congress will respond with its draft of a budget highlighting its priorities. Furthermore, in this year of highly charged presidential politics, many of the more controversial proposals and reductions will fall by the wayside.

In light of the proposed budget, it is more important than ever that elected officials know that autism is a priority - both those running for and already in office. The Autism Society of America will be working to increase funding for many of these key programs, and to ensure that autism has a voice in Washington and beyond.

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2008

How Can Families Cope With an Autistic Child and the Financial Burden


How Can Families Cope With an Autistic Child and the Financial Burden

By: Jonathan Sullivan

If your child has just been diagnosed with autism, you and your family are about the have a life changing experience. After you get over the shock of an autistic diagnosis you and your spouse will probably be overwhelmed with all the information and misinformation there is about the disorder. Your doctor will probably suggest a team of specialists who will take on the child's case that will probably change during the child's lifetime as new symptoms appear or the child's age and needs change. The cost of an autistic child for services and care can run close to $4,000,000 during the child's lifetime and can drain savings accounts and put the family in heavy debt.

The first thing the family needs to change is their opinion of insurance. Some people will take a good job without insurance just for a good paycheck or other benefits. This can't happen anymore. The parents or a least one of the parents has to have good insurance from their employers. Without insurance your child will not get the level of care that will give them the quality of life that your child deserves. The medical costs and the supplemental costs of going to different therapists and clinicians can put your bank account in financial shock and without insurance there will be little room for recovery.

Another thing to worry about is that you will get little financial assistance from the government. The Americans with Disabilities Act allows your child social security benefits and welfare, but most people who receive these funds can barely scratch out a living with today's economy. The supplemental money will have to come from the parent's wages and whatever other financial options there are. In some cases there are clinical trials or case studies that will pay for the treatment for your child, but these are usually experimental and if your child is in the control group of the experiment, then any benefits will be negated. The control group is the group where nothing new is done to them or a placebo is given instead of medication. A clinical trial can help with the finances but could be heartbreaking for the family if not benefit is seen.

If you have the finances and the opportunity you might want to consider moving outside of the United States. European countries and Canada have a different philosophy in financing families with children with autism than does the United States. The United States will spend millions in the public school system to have your child taken care of educationally through special education programs. Since autism is a unique disorder that is individualized most teachers, though they are trained, will not have the same relationship with the child as the parents. European countries and Canada siphon their monies in a different way. Instead of paying the doctors and teachers, they pay the parents and let them choose the method of treatment and the path of education. This will let the money go directly to the family and not a school system that is poorly suited to devote this cash to the development and the treatment of the child. Most of the time in public schools, autistic children are put with the mentally retarded and severely disabled children who have totally different issues and learning styles. If moving out of the country is not an option for you, you might want to find a financial advisor that will help you plan for the future and the future expenses of your autistic child. Stay insured and do not let your insurance lapse.

About the Author:

For info on autism symptoms and what is autism, visit the Autism Diagnosis website. | Posted: Jul 30th, 2008

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Inside the Autistic Mind


Inside the Autistic Mind
By Claudia Wallis

The road to Hannah's mind opened a few days before her 13th birthday.

Her parents, therapists, nutritionists and teachers had spent years preparing the way. They had moved mountains to improve her sense of balance, her sensory perception and her overall health. They sent in truckloads of occupational and physical therapy and emotional support. But it wasn't until the fall of 2005 that traffic finally began to flow in the other direction. Hannah, whose speech was limited to snatches of songs, echoed dialogue and unintelligible utterances, is profoundly autistic, and doctors thought she was most likely retarded. But on that October day, after she was introduced to the use of a specialized computer keyboard, Hannah proved them wrong. "Is there anything you'd like to say, Hannah?" asked Marilyn Chadwick, director of training at the Facilitated Communication Institute at Syracuse University.

With Chadwick helping to stabilize her right wrist and her mother watching, a girl thought to be incapable of learning to read or write slowly typed, "I love Mom."

A year and a half later, Hannah sits with her tutor at a small computer desk in her suburban home outside New York City. Facilitated communication is controversial (critics complain that it's often the facilitator who is really communicating), but it has clearly turned Hannah's life around. Since her breakthrough, she no longer spends much of her day watching Sesame Street and Blue's Clues. Instead, she is working her way through high school biology, algebra and ancient history. "It became obvious fairly quickly that she already knew a lot besides how to read," says her tutor, Tonette Jacob.

During the silent years, it seems, Hannah was soaking up vast storehouses of information. The girl without language had an extensive vocabulary, a sense of humor and some unusual gifts. One day, when Jacob presented her with a page of 30 or so math problems, Hannah took one look, then typed all 30 answers. Stunned, Jacob asked, "Do you have a photographic memory?" Hannah typed "Yes."

Like many people with autism, Hannah is so acutely sensitive to sound that she'll catch every word of a conversation occurring elsewhere in the house, which may account for much of her knowledge. She is also hypersensitive to visual input. Gazing directly at things is difficult, so she often relies on her almost preternatural peripheral vision. Hannah's newfound ability to communicate has enabled her intellect to flower, but it also has a dark side: she has become painfully aware of her own autism. Of this, she writes, "Reality hurts."

MORE THAN 60 YEARS AFTER AUTISM WAS first described by American psychiatrist Leo Kanner, there are still more questions than answers about this complex disorder. Its causes are still uncertain, as are the reasons for the rapidly rising incidence of autism in the U.S., Japan, England, Denmark and France. But slowly, steadily, many myths about autism are falling away, as scientists get a better picture of what's going on in the bodies and brains of people with autism and as more of those who are profoundly affected, like Hannah, are able to give voice to their experience. Among the surprises:

• Autism is almost certainly, like cancer, many diseases with many distinct causes. It's well known that there's a wide range in the severity of symptoms--from profound disability to milder forms like Asperger syndrome, in which intellectual ability is generally high but social awareness is low. Indeed, doctors now prefer the term Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD). But scientists suspect there are also distinct subtypes, including an early-onset type and a regressive type that can strike as late as age 2.

• Once thought to be mainly a disease of the cerebellum--a region in the back of the brain that integrates sensory and motor activity

Big Brain Responses Triggered By Sights And Sounds Of Emotion


Researchers at the University of York have identified a part of the brain that responds to both facial and vocal expressions of emotion.

They used the MagnetoEncephaloGraphic (MEG) scanner at the York Neuroimaging Centre to test responses in a region of the brain known as the posterior superior temporal sulcus.

The research team from the University's Department of Psychology and York Neuroimaging Centre found that the posterior superior temporal sulcus responds so strongly to a face plus a voice that it clearly has a 'multimodal' rather than an exclusively visual function. The research is published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Test participants were shown photographs of people with fearful and neutral facial expressions, and were played fearful and neutral vocal sounds, separately and together. Responses in the posterior superior temporal sulcus were substantially heightened when subjects could both see and hear the emotional faces and voices, but not when subjects could both see and hear the neutral faces and voices.

Researchers believe that the finding could help in the study of autism and other neuro-developmental disorders which exhibit face perception deficits.

Lead researcher Dr Cindy Hagan said: "Previous models of face perception suggested that this region of the brain responds to the face alone, but we demonstrated a supra-additive response to emotional faces and voices presented together - the response was greater than the sum of the parts."

Professor Andy Young added: "This is important because emotions in everyday life are often intrinsically multimodal - expressed through face, posture and voice at the same time."

The research involved tests on 19 people using York Neuroimaging Centre's £1.1 million MEG scanner which provides a non-invasive way of mapping the magnetic fields created by electrical activity in the brain.

Source: David Garner
University of York | 03 Nov 2009

I am not a puzzle, I am a person


"I am not a puzzle, I am a person"

By Elizabeth Svoboda

Long before her son Michelangelo's first birthday, Dana Commandatore began to suspect he was different. The other babies she knew babbled animatedly to everyone in sight. Michelangelo, though, never took much interest in children his age, and by the time he was 18 months old, he still wasn't speaking. Determined to find out what was wrong, Commandatore took her son to the pediatrician. "They sent us for a hearing test. The technicians were trying to put the headphones on and Michelangelo wouldn't let them do it," she recalls. "One tech said to the other, 'It seems more like autism than a hearing problem.' I turned around and said, 'What?'"

When Michelangelo's autism diagnosis was confirmed soon after, the verdict was more of a relief than anything else -- it seemed to suggest a clear course of action. "We knew who he was," Commandatore says. "Now we knew what to do." In the process of scouring the Internet, she stumbled across Web sites run by autistic adults who advocated a school of thought they called "neurodiversity." Autism was not a "disease," their reasoning went, but a "neurological variation" that ought to be as respected as a difference like skin color or sexual orientation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in the U.S. is about 1 in every 150 8-year-olds.

The advocates' core message -- that autistic people should be celebrated for their uniqueness, not aggressively "normalized" -- struck a chord with Commandatore. She began learning more about the movement and went to hear Ari Ne'eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, give a lecture. "I am not a person at all who joins groups. I'm not religious," Commandatore says. "But when I found Ari's Web site and saw him speak, he put into words what I had been thinking."

Like the deaf culture movement before it, the so-called autistic culture movement continues to gain traction, boasting thousands of adherents among parents, patients and healthcare professionals. And the rhetoric is often as strident as anything out of the deaf-pride movement. Some autistic people even use the pejorative term "curebie" to refer to people who hope for a cure for the condition. Organizations like Autism Network International view efforts to cure autism as similar to misguided efforts to cure homosexuality and left-handedness.

As its associated swag -- buttons and T-shirts proclaiming "I am not a puzzle, I am a person" -- suggests, the movement aims to redefine autism as something to be valued and protected, not obliterated. Proponents insist that forcing autistic people to behave like "neurotypicals," a term that borders on insulting, squelches the very qualities that make them unique. "The real ends for autistic people should be quality of life, full access in society, the kinds of things we support and are working for," Ne'eman says. "Parents have been told that the way to approach these things is to support research for a cure, but our belief is that that's not the most effective paradigm."

In other words, Jenny McCarthy can go jump off a cliff. While the Hollywood comedian's claims that childhood shots cause autism may be well-intentioned, Ne'eman says, her message has a pernicious and probably untrue implication: If we stopped giving kids "toxic" vaccines, autism wouldn't exist. Not only does this message distract from pragmatic efforts to get autistic kids the social support they need, it implies that autistic children are inherently less valuable than their normal counterparts. "The cure paradigm sends a message that there is somehow a normal person under the autistic person, and that's a significant denial of who we are."

Platinum Record Producer on Hunger Strike for Autism


In the landscape of autism-advocating celebrities so familiar to mainstream America, and mainstream media – Jenny McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Toni Braxton, etc. – trotting their children out into the spotlight like a never-ending circus show – there is another celeb who’s doing it all differently. And it should be no surprise it’s different, because he himself has Asperger’s, a form of autism, and sees the world differently.

This man is Michael Buckholtz – the platinum record producer, behind such artists as MC Hammer. This self-taught multi-instrumentalist, song-writer, producer is currently nearing the end of a 30-day hunger strike to draw national media attention to his cause.

And his cause is two-fold.

First, to show the world autism isn’t something limited to children – that autism has been around, a long time, though not nearly as hyped years ago as it is today. And there exists, living and breathing, a whole population of adults coping daily with this condition.

“There have been nationally televised features recently where one of the expert guests asked, ‘So where are all these so-called autistic adults? I don’t see them!’ This kind of misinformation is appalling,” said Buckholtz, “I wish to bring attention to the gross misrepresentation of who autistic people are and what we really act like.”

Michael continued by saying, “Many of us are invisible to the general public out of necessity. With the current media under-coverage of the varieties of autistic peoples, the general public only sees one type of autism: someone with the most severe symptoms. With this as the dominant perception, many with autism, whether it be high-functioning or not, are less likely to want their condition revealed to fellow associates, workmates, employers or anyone they come in contact with for fear they may lose a job or damage an important long-term relationship. In short, we blend in as best we can to survive. My hope is to generate massive energy around a humanitarian movement to include autistic adults in the everyday autism conversation because we are here and coping, some of us just barely.”

Michael’s second goal is as the spear-head of a grass-root, non-profit organization, Aid for Autistic Children Foundation, Inc. (, established to raise funds for families who have undergone financial hardship as a result of autism in their families. From the uninsured autistic man who has to go to a hospital and doesn’t know where to turn, to families on the brink of bankruptcy due to treatments and therapies they’ve gone out of pocket to secure, Michael is shining a light on this completely disenfranchised segment of the population that’s at the end of their rope.

Michael continued, “The media driven wrong perception of what autism really is – and the variety of ages of people affected – makes it difficult for the poorest of people coping with autism to have their voices not only heard, but, taken seriously. I'm giving voice to the autism community’s repeated and continued request for this help – which today is virtually non-existent.”

Michael’s convictions are fierce and he’s not at all shy about talking about the trauma he’s lived through growing up autistic, his triumphs and tragedies that are part of an autistic adult’s life. While we’re so accustomed to seeing celeb parents – here’s the real article: a man who is articulate, on a philanthropic tear, smart, talented, African-American, proud of what he’s been able to do so far, and looking to change how we think about autism.

Want to try to exceed his energy for this cause? The only adequate response would be: “U can’t touch this!”

Brian Field is the co-founder of the Autism Support Network

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