Someone you should know

Outreach for families dealing with autism


Chicago Parent Staff


Out and about
Sandra Burkhardt’s days are anything but routine. Burkhardt, a professor of psychology at Saint Xavier University, has not only dedicated her time to educating young adults, but along with a group of volunteers, created Project Respect. The community outreach program helps families with children with autism spectrum disorders.

Burkhardt’s efforts were recently recognized by the Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Center. She was presented the Venerable Mary Potter Humanitarian Award.

"There’s many people that are involved in making Project Respect a success, but (I’m) just very excited, very surprised and absolutely thrilled at this stage in my career that I would be honored to get such an award," says Burkhardt.

What are the main goals for Project Respect?

"Virtually, it’s to increase public awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the impact on families. Secondly, to provide educational and recreational support for families of kids with (autism) in our community here and finally, to provide pre-professional training experiences for undergraduate students at Saint Xavier University who need to learn more about (autism) and the impact on families."

What programs have you created to reach families living with ASD?

"Parent Partners is a part of Project Respect … What (parents) do is share their stories about how they dealt with (autism). They share those stories with other parents and they share those stories with Saint Xavier University students to develop more public awareness and greater insight into the impact of (autism) on the family."

How have the families impacted you?

"It truly is the families themselves that are the inspiration for this type of work. ... The greatest reward is actually seeing the enthusiasm, the appreciation, the involvement of the parents themselves … I feel uplifted and inspired."

Nicole Walker


Kids Eat Chicago

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