Dolores and Dr. Alan Bartel are the parents of two sons with profound hearing loss; their younger son Craig also has autism. In the late 1970s when Craig was only 18 months, the Bartels began working with the educational system. He was placed in various residential facilities, but most of them had poorly trained staff-- although they had good intentions. (Craig's remarkable journey with his supportive living and
employment programs will be featured in another issue of this e-newsletter.) Over the years, the Bartels spent much time in communication with professionals, and talking with numerous families who were dealing with similar issues. In addition, Dr. Bartel developed a database of families and professionals to facilitate networking and to assist researchers. To date, the database consists of over 1,100 network members from 22 countries that include Canada, Australia, Israel, Kuwait, Europe and the Philippines, as well as the USA.
In 1992, Dr. Margaret Creedon presented a talk titled "Autism and Sensory Loss" at the Autism Society (AS) national conference. The following year, the Network was established and became an annual special-interest talk at AS national conferences. Through the combined early efforts of many people, including the Bartels, Janice Sharre, OD., Diane Twachtman-Cullen, Ph.D., Carol Schall, Ph.D., Barbara Doyle, M.S., Terese Pawletko, Ph.D., and Enid Wolf-Schein, Ed.D., these annual meetings on sensory loss at the AS conferences have provided an efficient way to share resources that have been developed across the United States.
In 2007, ARI became actively involved in the Network by modifying and updating the database and providing online registration to the Network at: www.autism.com, click on link titled 'Hearing/Visually Impaired' located on the homepage.
The Bartels' encouraging message that families are not alone continues to ring true today. The Network and this e-newsletter will allow the sharing of relevant information in many areas including medical, educational, and therapeutic options.