Article by Erin Donaghue; photos by Sebastian Montes
Growing up in Charles County, Dee Singletary remembers when her sister Deidra couldn’t sit through a movie or go out to eat with her family because of her autism spectrum disorder. The girl would often become frustrated or overwhelmed in typical daily situations, and when it came to services, there wasn’t much available for her.
“Her school couldn’t take her because of her behavior – they couldn’t provide her the one-one-one attention she needed,” said Dee Singletary, 30, an Elkridge resident who works in Bethesda.
Since then, Deidra Singletary, now 29, has come a long way. The young woman holds down a job at a thrift store, lives in a group home in Silver Spring, and was even recently able to sit through a movie with her peers. Her success is thanks in large part to CSAAC – a Montgomery Village-based non-profit that provides services to children and adults with autism.
At the group’s fourth annual April happy hour fundraiser at in Bethesda, Singletary described the impact the group has had on her sister, who lives in one of the 52 homes the group operates in the county. “What CSAAC has offered my sister is a great quality of life,” Singletary said.
Founded in 1979, CSAAC provides a variety of educational, vocational, and residential services to those who suffer from autism, said CSAAC Foundation executive director Ayda Sanver. Many, like Singletary, are provided with around-the-clock supervision and support, both at work and at home. “We’re 24/7/365,” Sanver said.
Though CSAAC’s services are funded largely through the state, fundraising efforts like Thursday’s happy hour benefit things like recreation, technology, vacations, and other services that enhance the quality of life for those with autism, Sanver said.
More than 100 attended the fourth annual event, which raised more than $6,000 for the CSAAC Foundation. The happy hour also marked the National Autism Awareness Month, observed each April to raise awareness about the disorder, which affects as many as one in 88 U.S. children, according to the CDC.
To learn more about CSAAC or to donate, visit www.csaac.org.