Alexandra Abend ’08: Founder, Autism Family Night; Legal Intern, Cardozo Bet Tzedek Legal Services Clinic
Inspired by her brother with autism, Ms. Abend founded Sports Clinics for Children with Special Needs when she was 12, winning the Evelyn Aronow Dolan Citizen's Award for Advocacy and Promotion of Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities from the NJ Governor in 2006.
At 16, she was accepted into the Mount Holyoke Take the Lead program, where she created Autism Family Night (AFN) – a night when families affected with autism could eat out at TGI Fridays without feeling stigmatized or embarrassed. In the first year, every TGI Fridays in NJ participated. AFN was featured in the New York Times, Time Magazine and Teen Voices Magazine, and Ms. Abend was invited by the United Nations to be a guest speaker at the first World Autism Awareness Day.
Ms. Abend attended Duke University, where she majored in English, minored in psychology and had a pre-health concentration. She transitioned AFN to her sorority, and the now national event is in nine states and at TGI Fridays and Outback Steakhouses across the country, with her supervision and assistance.
After college, Ms. Abend worked as an ABA therapist for children with autism and as a family advocate for Families Helping Families of Southeast Louisiana (FHF of SELA), advocating for people with disabilities in special education and in general disability rights. She created two programs: The Prism Project of Greater New Orleans, an inclusive performing arts program for children with and without special needs; and Career Symposium, ensuring that students with disabilities are able to transition out of high school and find meaningful post-secondary opportunities.
Ms. Abend attends Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law to become an attorney who advocates on behalf of students and adults with disabilities. She interned at Advocates for Children of New York her first year, and now interns at the Cardozo Bet Tzedek Legal Services Clinic, where she advocates on behalf of low-income people with disabilities in housing discrimination, employment discrimination and reduction in services cases at no cost to the clients. Alex's Note will be published in Cardozo Law Review, which proposes to change the way New York City Department of Education considers assistive technology for students with disabilities.