As the mother of a young child with autism, Linda Walder Fiddle, 52, often thought about the uncertainty of her son, Danny’s, future. “I realized there were few, if any, services for adults living with autism,” she says.
When Danny died unexpectedly in 2000 at age nine, Walder Fiddle did not walk away from the problem. In 2002, the Ridgewood resident founded the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation (DJfiddlefoundation.org), the first national organization specifically for adults living with autism.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children diagnosed with autism has increased by 600 percent in the past 20 years, creating a generation of young adults whose needs today far exceed the resources available. “The common misconception is that autism is a childhood disorder,” Walder Fiddle says.
The DJF Foundation not only funds but also co-develops programs for adults living with autism and their families. These are designed to be replicable by grassroots communities nationwide. Since its inception, DJF Foundation has launched more than 100 such programs. These include a support group for senior citizens living with autism, developed with the New York City-based Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership, and a hotline and resource guide developed with the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities in Bergen County.
“She’s so different from other foundations that write a check and walk away,” says Linda Mann, a colleague from Walder Fiddle’s past life as a public relations executive turned attorney.
“Parents and individuals [with autism] should have a great adult life,” Walder Fiddle says. “That’s what I wanted for my son, and if I can help other people get my wish, that’s wonderful for me.”