ELS FOR AUTISM & ELS CENTER FOR EXCELLENCE
We have spoken previously about different initiatives to help people on the autism spectrum and today it is a pleasure to talk about ELS FOR AUTISM, committed to helping people on the autism spectrum fulfill their potential to lead positive, productive and rewarding lives.
Their mission includes facilitating the development and delivery of treatment therapies, educational and training programs, and sports programs as well as residential and independent living programs.
In March, professional golfer Rickie Fowler hit a ‘hole-in-one’ worth $1 million at the Els for Autism Pro-Am hosted by Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator. The tournament was held at the Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
In total, the tournament raised $1.82 million (US$) for The Els Center of Excellence, state-of-the-art campus on 26 acres in Jupiter, Florida that wants to disseminate information on autism treatments and opportunities throughout the world.
But first, here are some facts about autism spectrum disorder (ASD):
- ASD is characterized by deficits in social communication and social interaction as well as restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities.
- Individuals with autism may have a wide range of intellectual capabilities from limited to superior abilities. Some individuals with ASD are known to excel in visual skills, music, math, and art, among other areas.
- One in 68 children and one in 42 boys in the U.S. are affected by autism, and boys are 4 times more likely to have ASD than girls. Global rates of autism are thought to be similar.
- An estimated 2 million individuals in the U.S. are affected
- ASD occurs in children of all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds
- More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes, and cancer combined
- Recent studies show that most children are diagnosed after age 4, despite the fact that ASD can be diagnosed much earlier. Early identification and intensive early intervention and treatment can result in significant positive outcomes for many children with ASD. Symptoms can often be detected by 18 months of age or earlier.
Els for Autism Foundation was established in the spring of 2009 by Ernie Els, the Hall of Fame golfer originally from South Africa, and his wife Liezl after their son, Ben, now 13, was diagnosed with autism.
One of their first goals was to create The Els Center of Excellence, a model for the world of what should be available to children on the autism spectrum. Last summer this amazing center opened in Jupiter, located in northern Palm Beach County, Florida, with on-site education for ages 3-21, professional and medical services, state-of-the-art conference center and a golf practice facility to teach the sport to the autism community.
Construction just began on the upper school, art and sculpture plaza, research lab and the site for the transition to adulthood services. Currently, the Els Center offers a digital learning platform to disseminate best practices in education and treatment to a global audience for free. There are more than a dozen modules available, and people from around the globe – including Europe, South Africa, and Brazil – have been using them to increase their knowledge on autism.
When completed in 2017, The Els Center of Excellence will feature:
A Lower School*
An Upper School
An Auditorium and Conference Building*
A golf practice facility
Swimming pool and pavilion
Sensory garden and pavilion
A medical and professional services building
An adult services building*
* Opened August 2015
The Els team is focusing a lot of energy on the creation of employment opportunities for people on the spectrum, whose gifts are not always easily identified or matched to jobs – although in Europe, that may be further along with companies such as Specialisterne, a Danish “socially-motivated company where the majority of employees have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum.” Specialisterne employees are primarily involved with software testing, programming, and data entry in both the public and private sectors.
In Palm Beach, The Els Center of Excellence is launching a partnership with the newly-renovated and world-renowned PGA National Resort and Spa.
The Hospitality Work Experience program is for adults with developmental disabilities who have completed high school. They will gain valuable work experience in a hotel or a golf course, master social skills in the workplace, and learn to write a resume and interview skills. It starts on May 10 and runs through October 20, 2016.
There are many ways to get involved with Els for Autism. I invite you to learn more by visiting their website or by contacting the Foundation directly.
With your support Els for Autism can generate funding for scientific research aimed at understanding autism, developing knowledge-based treatment, helping create opportunities for individuals with autism spectrum disorder to find fulfilling employment and ultimately, helping them lead productive and enriching lives.