• How the Flutie Foundation gives families with autism peace of mind

    By: Heather Hegedus

    Updated:

    TEWKSBURY, Mass. - Justin and Luke love playing outside in their new backyard.

    The Arvidson family recently moved from a townhome to the new house and knew immediately they were going to need to a fence. Another expense for a family already dealing with not one, but two expensive diagnoses.

    "Both of our sons have an autism diagnosis," the boys' father, Erik Arvidson, said. "In Justin's case, he has pretty significant cognitive challenges as well. Children on the autism spectrum -- including Justin and Luke -- they have a different way of perceiving danger."

    Justin wears a monitoring ankle bracelet but both brothers have a tendency to run away.

    "We've had some close calls and some instances where your heart races," their mother, Donna, said. 

    The Flutie Foundation, named for local football legend Doug Flutie, offers grants to families to help with both safety and quality of life needs.

    "We want to provide children and adults with autism the ability to be fit to be active to be physical just like their peers are, but also want to make sure that they're safe," Flutie Foundation Executive Director Nick Savarese said.  

    The Arvidson family was awarded a grant that covered half the cost of their new fence being installed. About half of all children with autism have a tendency to wander from safe settings, according to Autism Speaks, and are often attracted to water, which makes drowning a danger -- especially this time of year.

    The fire and police departments also came by to register the Arvidsons in their family database. For the Ardvisons, it means they can now enjoy the summer without worrying.

    "They can run through the sprinkler and we can sit and have a meal and not be ready to jump out of our chairs at any moment," Donna said. 

    Through fundraising efforts, the Flutie Foundation has donated more the $15 million to date for families, schools and organizations to help individuals lead fulfilling lives. 

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