REFLECTING ON 25: FEATURING SARRC CO-FOUNDER, DR. RAUN MELMED
SARRC was founded in 1997 by two dedicated mothers of children with autism, Denise Resnik and Cindy Schneider, along with their developmental pediatrician, Raun Melmed, MD.
We connected with SARRC co-Founder Dr. Melmed to get his take on the past 25 years, progress made, lessons learn, and more!
How does SARRC differ from other autism organizations?
SARRC has never compromised on ensuring the most appropriate leadership for the mission. It's not cheap and it's not easy, but the parent-oriented, family-focused board of directors has supported SARRC’s scientific and clinical leadership in ways that have ensured that cutting-edge, researched-based interventions can be implemented with fidelity and without compromise to individuals at all ages and stages.
How has the process of autism diagnosis gotten better over the years?
SARRC has been instrumental in building capacity in the diagnostic arena. Led by some of the most respected diagnosticians, SARRC has established collaborations with academic institutions in Arizona and across the United States. Initiatives to facilitate early access to care have resulted in the training of primary care medical providers to screen early, refer appropriately and participate actively in the overall diagnostic process. The children of the Southwest will benefit from that for years to come.
How have the expected outcomes for adults with autism changed over the past 25 years?
A question was once posed to a young man with autism as to what autism meant to him. He answered, “autism was a place to go.” That resonated with me over the years because for so long, there was nowhere for adults to go.
The robust programs both at SARRC, as well as at First Place, are leading the way in providing adult services. SARRC’s perspective is that given appropriate early intervention and ongoing developmentally appropriate services, the outcome of any individual can be optimized and the possibility of active inclusion into the mainstream of society will no longer be just a dream, but an expectation for many of the adults diagnosed early with autism.
What is an initiative or program you are most proud of at SARRC?
The programs at SARRC exemplify the balance struck between evidence-based interventions and heartfelt, compassionate practices. That has resulted in multiple nationally recognized, blue-ribbon programs.
In the 25 years since SARRC’s opening, what has been one of the most impactful lessons you’ve learned?
Words and ideas can be transformed into actions and realities. When the resources of a caring community are fueled by the passion of committed and informed parents, anything can happen, and SARRC is a testimony to that.
What are you most proud of as a SARRC co-founder?
The privilege of being able to participate in the groundswell of change for individuals with developmental differences has lent the deepest meaning to my life. I've been honored to participate in this process along with my co-founder Denise Resnik whose support, wisdom and friendship have been invaluable. It's our legacy and I have been thrilled to be part of establishing this jewel in the crown of Arizona.