The 2017 IIACC Driver of Innovative Service and Implementation in ASD (DISI) Award was awarded to a group dedicated to supporting individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the Spanish-speaking community – Grupo de Apoyo para Latinos con Autismo Indianapolis or GALA. Starting with only four families in 2016, the group has since grown to regularly engaging 35 families. GALA focuses on sharing information about ASD, interventions, and resources available in Indianapolis as well as advocacy and self-advocacy.
Most importantly, GALA provides a community in which families can share their challenges and successes. We met with Aura Roblero, the leader of this advocacy group and an active IIACC member, to learn more about GALA.
HANDS: Tell us about GALA. What does this group do and what are your goals?
Aura Roblero: We are a Latino support group for parents/caregivers who are facing challenges raising a child with ASD. Our main mission is to provide education, training and resources in Spanish to families, as well as emotional support, in a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment where each member can share their concerns and discuss their experiences with other families.
We also want to serve as a connection between providers or community agencies (for example, we provide the name or a direct phone number to the school, case manager, nurse, community agency rather than just general resources). Parents are more likely to follow through if they have a direct person referred by someone they trust. We want to alleviate some of the stress associated with raising a child with special needs.
HANDS: Are there any age or other limitations with whom your work?
Aura Roblero: GALA serves families with a child with ASD of any age. Our philosophy is that families always need support and guidance to find resources to help their children. And, we are very well accepted by the Latino community, because we are Latino and parent a child with special needs as well. Also, culturally we better understand the barriers that families face raising their children with autism.
HANDS: Do you collaborate with other groups in Indiana?
Aura Roblero: As a new group, we are in the process of establishing collaboration and/or partnership with agencies or other organizations that work in the field. Currently, we receive support from Family Voices Indiana, INSOURCE, Answers for Autism, Down Syndrome Indiana, and HANDS in Autism. The support we receive includes training, materials, financial support and space to host our meetings.