Volunteers are the backbone to any great non-profit organization. The American Autism Association is grateful to its numerous volunteers that dedicate their time and talent to the very programs that keep our organization running. As our Saddle Up for Autism Spring 2017 program in Miami, FL comes to an end, we would like to commemorate one special volunteer that helped make it a success.

Elizabeth Tapia, a Miami native, dedicated almost every single Saturday morning to volunteering at our program. She is a freshman at Law Enforcement Officers Memorial High School with aspirations to go to college and become a special effects makeup artist. She stumbled across the American Autism Association because her mom had heard great things about it and recommended it to Elizabeth. She began her first day a bit nervous and apprehensive. As the weeks passed Elizabeth gained more and more confidence interacting with the children and creating bonds. “I’m capable of more than I thought. I wasn’t sure how I’d react to the kids and I’d say I handled myself pretty well.”, she said.

Facilitating the Saddle Up program is such a joy  and having Elizabeth there to rely on and help has only made my experience much easier and stress free. As the program went on, finding volunteers to show up and commit was difficult. Elizabeth committed all the way and brought a positive attitude every single class.

When I asked her if she had any advice for volunteers looking to work with children with autism she said patience and being attentive all the time was key to preventing things from happening. “I learned that Autism varies more than expected and there is no right or wrong way to deal with it. You just have to do what you’ve learned to help the case.”, she said.

When I asked why she enjoyed volunteering for our Saddle Up program she responded, “My favorite part was the kids. Each one had their quirks, whether they loved eating things or accidentally kept stepping on the animals, it kept them unique and I’d never want that to change.”

Thank you Elizabeth for your selfless devotion to children on the spectrum and for being a great role model to others!

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