Why Offleash Walks for Autism Speaks

Posted on November 13, 2020

By Tanaya Lukaszewski

As we near the end of the year, OffleashCARES (Offleash’s CSR arm) is focused on supporting an organization near and dear to our hearts—Autism Speaks. The organization is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. 

Last year, some of our team members were fortunate enough to participate in the organization’s annual Autism Speaks Walk in-person in San Francisco. This year, the walk is happening virtually on Sunday, Nov. 15. We’re looking forward to taking to our neighborhoods, local hiking trails, and favorite seaside walks to show our support for this cause. With the help of our family, friends, and peers, we’ve been able to exceed our Autism Speaks Walk fundraising goal for 2020. 

Below, a few Offleashers share why they walk for Autism Speaks.

Why I walk for Autism Speaks: Leo. 
Julie Tangen, Executive VP

Saturday morning snuggling, math puzzles, art on rainy days, ice cream cones, swinging so high he thinks he can fly, a smile so real and pure that one glimpse can change your day—this is what autism looks like to me. 

My grandson Leo was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder early on when we were concerned about his speech development. His super-parents, Nina and Gabi, jumped into action and took steps to get Leo the support he needs. Fast forward to today, Leo is a confident three and a half year old who can write and spell, and loves to show off his math skills. 

While we know autism is life-long and we’ll need continued help and support, we also know that early intervention is working for us. I want to help remove the stigma attached to autism. Research says this stigma often keeps families from seeking a diagnosis and services for their children because they worry it will open them up to criticism or embarrassment. There are so many misconceptions surrounding autism, and the more we talk about them, the sooner we’ll eliminate this sad and unnecessary stigma.

Why I walk for Autism Speaks: Ella.
Tanaya Lukaszewski, Vice President

My daughter, Ella, has autism. When she received the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder at age three, my husband and I were understandably fearful of what this meant for her future. At the time, Ella was practically nonverbal, far from potty trained, and struggled with heightened sensory sensitivity to things like loud noises, smells, clothing textures, etc. Many questions filled our heads: Will she ever talk? Will she ever get dressed without throwing a tantrum? Will she ever get out of diapers?

Today, Ella is six years old and thriving. Looking back, we wish we knew then what we know now—Ella’s diagnosis was nothing to be afraid of, but, in fact, a gift. Individuals on the spectrum are extraordinary, and as her parents, we are the lucky ones who get to have a front-row seat in facilitating her journey. 

Since Ella’s diagnosis, we have had the privilege of watching her develop into an exceptionally unique, joyous, hilarious, insightful, and kind person who cares deeply for all creatures and people. Ella is one of the hardest working people we know, as she balances the daily demands of behavioral therapy, virtual kindergarten, and her self-imposed responsibilities as big sister and tiara-wearing princess of the house. 

Ella is a walking testament to the crucial importance of intervening early with behavioral therapies and educational supports. We applaud Autism Speaks for their role in publicizing the importance of early intervention. It’s difficult to overstate the imperative to help make resources available for autistic children, autistic adults, and their families, as they navigate their atypical paths. 

Why I walk for Autism Speaks: To support early intervention.
Joanna Kulesa, CEO and Founder

Years back, I was approached by an organization called Behavioral Intervention for Autism (BIA). At the time, I knew nothing about autism, but they needed some PR help so I lent a hand. Through the process of working with BIA, I learned how crucial early invention is to these children’s lives, and the enormous impact it can have on their quality of life. 

Today, BIA is hard at work providing innovative and individualized treatment programs that significantly improve the lives of children diagnosed with autism. The organization offers applied behavior analysis (ABA) services to children and adolescents with autism, in addition to social skills groups, and parent training groups. 

Why I walk for Autism Speaks: Kristin. 
Peter Zibinski, Account Executive

My cousin Kristin is one of the sweetest and most caring people I know. She has autism and has shown me what it means to care with your whole heart. She also never forgets to remind me to set my clocks forward or ahead during daylight savings. I’m proud of the work Offleash has done with Autism Speaks for my cousin and everyone else with autism across the country.

Offleash would like to sincerely thank everyone who contributed to our Autism Speaks Walk fundraising page to help us meet this year’s goal. By continuing to support organizations like Autism Speaks, we can help people to better understand autism, and equip parents, children, and families with the resources they need to thrive.