‘Big Bang’ for Autism Partnership

Staff photo

The 6th annual “Big Bang on the Bay” event at The Boathouse in Alamitos Bay has partnered with a Seal Beach non-profit this year. One of the Boathouse’s owners, John Morris, said the decision to give 100 percent of the money raised on July 3 for his dinner-and-fireworks-show to the Autism Partnership, was an easy one when he heard what the group has achieved.

Autism Partnership (and the Autism Partnership Foundation) has been “hiding in plain sight” for decades. Located at 200 Marina Dr., the building is just behind the Seal Beach sign where Central Avenue and Marina Drive split. It is the only United States location for the worldwide organization, which also operates in eight countries.

Dr. Ron Leaf was one of the founding partners of Autism Partnership in 1994. Its foundation was formed in 2000. He has been in the field for 45 years, when autism was rarely diagnosed or understood. “It’s my passion,” Leaf said.

Autism is a complex diagnosis, and today experts say that one in 68 births will result in a child with autism. Even that continues to evolve. “In the mid-90s high-functioning autism was diagnosed, and the  spectrum came into play.” Leaf said autism can be classified as a behavior disorder. Children and adults with autism usually have deficits in areas of social interaction and play.

Leaf and his partners use progressive Applied Behavior Analysis, which he says is a research-driven therapy that is recognized worldwide as the most effective treatment. It requires good teaching, repetition and patience.

“About half the kids who come to us are non-speaking,” Leaf said, adding that most speak after treatment, which can take as long as four years. About 40 to 50 children are seen at the Seal Beach facility daily.

“It is like teaching a kid to swim. They don’t learn with one lesson, but in time, they learn.” After treatment, the children have “good communication skills” and Leaf’s goal is that they achieve a high quality of life. “Really, our mission is to help the world.”

The Boathouse’s role

Morris at The Boathouse has a mission as well. Every year this event on July 3 is a fundraiser for a good cause. Last year Morris wrote a $93,000 check for Children Today, a Long Beach-based non profit that helps homeless children. This year he hopes to write an even bigger check to the Autism Partnership. “My goal is $100,000,” Morris said, noting that all the preparation and hard work is worth it. “It’s what we do,” he adds.

Morris has his event on July 3 because the city of Long Beach told him it could be any day of the year except July 4. So, he created a new holiday, and now people with homes on the Bay have their parties on the 3rd, too. They also write checks year after year to Morris and the charity he is supporting.

“Big Bang on the Bay” starts at 5:30 p.m. and ends with a spectacular fireworks display at dusk. Morris spends $37,000 on  the fireworks alone, and another $12,000 on the barge that holds them. He spends another chunk of change at Naples Rib Co., which provides the food. This year there will be vintage airplane flyovers, skydivers, dancing, sailing regatta, carnival games and entertainment.

Tickets are $50 for adults; $20 for kids; and VIP tables for 10 are $1,000-$1,500. Tickets are tax deductible. For event information call 562-493-1249 or go to www.autismpartnershipfoundation.org/news/big-bang-on-the-bay/

Interested in Autism Partnership?

Leaf recommends that parents who are interested in the organization visit the website at www.autismpartnership.com to learn what is available. Many books (some written by Leaf) are available as well. The next step would be to contact the facility and perhaps take a tour to see what is offered.

‘Big Bang’ for Autism Partnership