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Welcome to your weekly Tips from the Team. We’ll be bringing you information from knowledgeable writers on a range of subjects including biomedical treatments, nutrition, advocacy, safety and more—information you can use to improve the quality of life for both your child and yourself.
Speaking His Mind
Not one to back down from controversy, Aidan Quinn reflects on vaccine injury and the autism epidemic…

Interview by Autism File Editor-in Chief, Polly Tommey

In addition to his many film and TV roles, actor and producer Aidan Quinn is also known among autism parents for speaking out on the link between vaccines and autism—no small undertaking given the potential pushback from publicly taking on what’s considered a controversial topic.  Mr. Quinn is also on the board of directors of the Center for Discovery, a national specialty center for the advanced care of children and adults with severe and complex disabilities located 100 miles northwest of New York City.  His daughter, now 24, was diagnosed with autism 22 years ago and now resides at the Center for Discovery.  Autism File Editor-in-Chief Polly Tommey recently met with Mr. Quinn in New York to discuss the Center and what the future holds for individuals with autism.

Polly Tommey:  I’m very impressed with all I’ve heard about the Center for Discovery.  How did the program get started?

Aidan Quinn:   It was started 60 years ago by a group of parents as a facility for individuals diagnosed as medically fragile or with Cerebral Palsy.  Now, however, because of the autism epidemic, about 40% of the residents are on the spectrum.

PT:  How is the Center financed?  Through fundraising?

AQ:  Fundraising is a crucial and an important component, but that alone isn’t enough to sustain the program, or any program of this magnitude.  Eventually, the government has to get involved in such a huge and complex endeavor because even if personal wealth is a factor, you just can’t keep things moving forward to meet the level of needs.  It does get complicated when state and federal governments become involved as it gives them some decision-making power—but it’s absolutely necessary for sustainability.

PT:  Can you give our readers an overview of the Center for Discovery?

AQ:  The atmosphere is really more like a university than just a residential facility and it’s doing some extraordinary things. We have an incredible director, Patrick Dollard, who’s very forward-thinking and has this amazing and dynamic energy, and we’re blessed with a remarkable and dedicated staff.  Patrick has been instrumental in getting the involvement of politicians and others in the community so that they really want to be supportive of our efforts.  We also have an organic biodynamic farm that feeds not only the residents but the staff as well. Additionally, the farm allows as many people as possible to have productive jobs.  Having a healthy food system/source is very important to children and adults with autism.

PT:  That’s brilliant.  It sounds like the Center has experienced a lot of growth in the past 60 years.

AQ:  Yes, it has. We currently employ over 1,500 people and have 330 full-time residents, plus 110 day students, and we serve hundreds of people through our medical clinic.  We’ve had to grow because of the exponential increase in autism rates and the unmet needs of so many of those affected by autism.

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