AUGUST 27, 2014

Will Fold For Food – SARRC's Think Asperger’s® Program seeks army of volunteers to fold 45,000 Chatterboxes

Sweet Tomatoes to donate free meals to Awareness Campaign Volunteers on Thursday, Sept. 4
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Volunteers needed across the Valley.
WHAT: Statewide Asperger’s awareness campaign needs 450,000 paper folds in 2 hours.
WHY: Free meals at select Sweet Tomatoes in exchange for help to empower educators.
WHEN: 6 - 8 p.m.; Thursday, September 4
MORE: Volunteers must reserve and confirm a spot by emailing and simply tell us which of the participating Sweet Tomatoes locations they’d like to visit/volunteer at on September 4. (Choice of Tempe, Desert Ridge, Scottsdale, Uptown and Ahwatukee locations)

PHOENIX – Most parents have found themselves asking, “Is my child’s behavior on track?” more than once. Perhaps a little boy fails to make eye contact when spoken to, or perhaps a young girl is having issues relating to her peers. While many of these signals are simply a part of normal adolescent behavior, the existence of several key signs in the same child warrants a closer look, and sometimes, professional intervention.

sarrc logoThat’s why the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center’s Think Asperger’s awareness campaign needs the public’s help. The campaign, intended to educate parents, teachers and pediatricians as to how to identify the signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in school-age children, is distributing 45,000 “chatterboxes” to educators throughout the state. The goal is to raise awareness and encourage early detection of the widespread disorder, and is asking for volunteers to aid in the assembly process.

From 6 – 8 p.m. Thursday, September 4, select Sweet Tomatoes locations across the Valley will offer free meals to volunteers who assist the Think Asperger's campaign by folding the chatterboxes in preparation for delivery to area schools.

Asperger's, which is under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder, is characterized by difficulties with communication and social behaviors. In Arizona, one in 64 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“It’s important to understand that autism spectrum disorder can be diagnosed at any age.  If a child is quirky but seems to function well, no one is concerned.  However, a functional impairment may emerge at any time when the demands of the environment exceed their social-communication skills,” explains Christopher J. Smith, Vice President and Research Director of SARRC. “For school-age children, the demands of initiating group play with peers, transitioning between classroom activities or making friends are just a few examples of activities that children with autism spectrum disorder may struggle with during the school day.”

The chatterboxes, or paper fortune tellers, salt cellars or whirlybirds, as they are sometimes called, are something many will recall fondly from their elementary school days. A question is asked, and then the fortune teller operator manipulates its shape using an algorithm, ultimately revealing additional information. These chatterboxes work just the same, but help the user spot potential signs of autism is a child and indicate when more attention may be needed.

About SARRC   
The Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) is a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to autism research, education and resources for children and young adults with autism and their families. SARRC undertakes self-directed and collaborative research projects, serves as a satellite site for national and international projects, and provides up-to-date information, training and assistance to families and professionals about autism and related disorders. For more information about SARRC, please call (602) 340-8717 or visit

About Think Asperger’s
Think Asperger’s ® is an outreach program to educate elementary school staff and pediatricians to “Think Asperger’s” when they see subtle social challenges in young or school-age children who seem to be developing normally. Started in 2008 by the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), the program was created in response to the need for better detection and identification of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in school-age children, particularly those who may not have displayed “early indicators” commonly understood as the early signs of ASD. Think Asperger’s focuses on the “late indicators” of ASD, including impaired ability to make friends with peers; stereotyped, repetitive or unusual use of language; and inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals.

Through the private funding of Patty and Phil Dion, along with the support of their friends and family, nearly $600,000 has been raised to fund the program’s development, ensuring that the resources, tools and screening materials are available at no-cost to educators. The Dion’s son, David, was not diagnosed with Asperger’s until age 33.

About Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a pervasive developmental disorder that encompasses Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). Formerly, each disorder had distinct criteria. Now only one set of criteria exists with all three under a single diagnosis: ASD.  ASD is characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.