FEAT was founded in 1993 by a group of parents and professionals who wanted to improve the early intervention services that were offered in the Sacramento area. Together they wrote grants and raised enough money to provide intensive early intervention training for parents and local professionals. In 1993, therapists from the UCLA Clinic for the Behavioral Treatment of Children started coming to the Sacramento area and provided training workshops to help the families in FEAT get started. As a result of these early workshops, there are now several professionals in the Sacramento area that can help families run programs.
Since 1993, over 100 children in Northern California have participated in Workshop and Clinic programs sponsored by FEAT and several providers of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services. The goal of providing ABA programs to young children is to assure that all young children with autism have the opportunity to maximize their potential. As a result of this concerted program, many of the children are now attending regular public schools, most with the assistance of an aide. FEAT’s initial ability to provide these ABA Workshops was made possible by a grant in 1993 of $75,000 grant from the Sierra Health Foundation. This grant and continuing fund-raising efforts have been the source of funding for services provided by FEAT.
Every year since 1993, FEAT has held its annual “Night of Caring” fund-raising Dinner & Auction. In 1994, FEAT sponsored State Autism Awareness Week and held its second Dinner Dance. The guest of honor was Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas Ph.D., Director of the UCLA Clinic for the Behavioral Treatment of Children. In 1994, FEAT honored Dr. Bernard Rimland, Ph.D., Director of the Autism Research Institute. The annual “Night of Caring” continues to be FEAT’s main social and fund-raising event each year.
Other activities FEAT has maintained since 1993 are monthly resource meetings, which are designed to provide continuing information, education, and support for families of children with autism. FEAT also continues to publish a quarterly newsletter and annually updates a Handbook for Parents. In 1995, FEAT established a Lending Library to provide information and materials to families involved in early intervention programs.
In 1994 and 1995, FEAT sponsored six (3 each year) student tutors to attend a summer training session at the UCLA clinic. As a result of this training, these tutors were able to return to Sacramento as Early Intervention Consultants to help direct home programs under the guidance of professional consultants. In 1996, FEAT sponsored 13 local children to receive Early Autism Treatment from the UCLA Clinic.
Since 1997, FEAT sponsored the Capitol Autism Conference in Sacramento, bringing together national and international experts in the diagnosis, treatment, and services for children with autism. The FEAT Daily Online Newsletter was established in 1997 providing access to information on current autism topics. It was distributed throughout the United States to over 8,000 subscribers. Also in 1997 FEAT produced with video, “Doctor, My Child Doesn’t Talk” – The Importance of Early Autism Diagnosis. This video won the 1997 Autism Society of America’s award for excellence in video. Hundreds of copies of this video have been distributed throughout the United States and the world, to physicians, parents, and others involved in the early diagnosis of children with autism.
In 1997 FEAT applied for and received a $220,000 grant from the Department of Developmental Services for Project HOPE. Project HOPE was established to fund a program at UC Davis Medical Center to identify, treat, and ultimately cure autism. The UC Davis Medical Center program was later renamed The M.I.N.D. Institute for the Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders. It is now one of the leading research institutions on the West Coast.
FEAT has continued to expand its services, assisting parents in getting early diagnosis and treatment for their children. When treatment has been delayed, either by local school districts or the regional center, FEAT has assisted families to obtain intervention programs, speech programs, occupational therapy, and evaluations. In addition, FEAT has developed an active Advocacy Committee and Parent Mentor Program that assists families during the IEP, Planning Team Meetings, Fair Hearings, and Due Process Hearings.
In 2000, FEAT was fortunate to have students from California State University, Sacramento, develop a poster identifying early signs of autism. This poster has been distributed to local pediatricians and family practice physicians, to be placed in exam rooms alerting parents about autism. Several hundred posters have been distributed to local doctors.
FEAT has grown from a small, grass-roots organization to a program that serves over 600 children with ASD including Asperger’s Syndrome. It is now serving the entire population of children with autism from infant to children through high school. It is living up to its motto of “effective treatment for all children and young adults with autism.”