Thea Furbert Honoured With International Award

October 16, 2019 | 2 Comments

Tomorrow’s Voices co-founder and board chairwoman Thea Furbert has been honoured with a prestigious international advocacy award during the 2019 Autism Law Summit, a two-day event which took place last Friday [Oct 11] in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

A spokesperson said, “Tomorrow’s Voices is thrilled to announce that Thea Furbert, co-founder and board chairwoman, has been honoured with a prestigious international advocacy award.

“Ms Furbert was invited to the 2019 Autism Law Summit, a two-day event, which took place last Friday [October 11] in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where she was awarded the International Advocacy Award for her work with improving the services and lives of those with autism and other developmental disabilities on the island through the Tomorrow’s Voice’s Autism Early Intervention Centre.”

Ms. Furbert said, “I was totally shocked and speechless to receive the award, but I am truly thankful for being recognized internationally for what we are doing here that is mirroring what is being done internationally for autism.

“Everyone was high-fiving and it was a very celebratory atmosphere, which was phenomenal.”

Autism Law Summit Bermuda Oct 2019 (1)

The spokesperson said, “The two-day summit, which is now in its 13th year, is a gathering of doers that includes over 300 parent advocates, autism service providers, lawyers, individuals with autism, lobbyists and legislators from every state in the US, as well as internationally, that come together to strategize for autism policy and reform.

“Workshops centering on autism advocacy within law and policy are part of the Summit, as well as the awards ceremony. Ms Furbert was invited by organizers Mike Wasmer, former Director of State Government affairs of Autism Speaks and now the VP of Government Affairs and Special Projects at The Council of Autism Service Providers [CASP] and Lorri Shealy Unumb, CEO of The Council of Autism Service Providers [CASP], who have both been to Bermuda and seen first-hand the work being done at Tomorrow’s Voices Autism Early Intervention Centre, and were impressed by the quality of services being provided.

“Jahnae Harvey, senior verbal behavioural therapist at Tomorrow’s Voices, was also in attendance to get a better perspective on the law around autism and service provisions.

“Mrs. Unumb has been instrumental in bringing forth autism reform in the United States. Mrs Unumb, whose son has autism, began advocating for autism reform 10 years ago in her home state of South Carolina. She took her case across the United States, and this year’s Summit also celebrated the first time that all 50 states and Washington, D.C. have autism insurance rights.

“During the award ceremony, Ms Furbert was called the ‘Lorri Unumb of Bermuda.’”

Ms. Furbert said, “Being compared to Lorri was fantastic because she has made so many changes in the US. To be compared to her was such a great moment and honour for me.”

Autism Law Summit Bermuda Oct 2019 (2)

The spokesperson said, “Mrs Unumb has been instrumental in advising the Tomorrow’s Voices team about meeting with insurance companies which led to some local companies providing insurance coverage for autism services in Bermuda.”

Ms. Furbert said, “Attending the Summit has created a fire in me to research more about Bermuda’s laws that are attached to those with disabilities so that we can know what is missing and what needs to be done further, so that we can advocate for special needs laws as well as special education laws in Bermuda.

“Everyone that came together at the Summit was there as a piece of the puzzle in advocating in their specific states and making changes. There were also a number of lawyers there knowledgeable about how these things have been implemented in different states. Our laws might be a little different in terms but they’re not so different in what we can do to fight for implementation of special needs and autism laws.

“It also showed that I’m not alone in this and that many others are doing the same as parents in their own states.”

The spokesperson said, “Ms. Furbert was also attending the Summit as a parent. Her son Ciré has autism and was the motivation for co-founding Tomorrow’s Voices 12 years ago. Several of the workshops were directed towards parent advocates, particularly in regards to legal provisions that should be in place and available for those over 18 with autism.

“Ms. Harvey, who is a board certified behaviour analyst [BCBA], attended the Summit with an interest in facilitating the older population diagnosed with autism.”

Autism Law Summit Bermuda Oct 2019 (3)

Ms. Harvey said, “With more children and clients growing up there is a need to figure out next steps. There were workshops that took place on how to facilitate the older populations. While there is insurance coverage, a lot still have age limitations and some places are trying to get those caps completely removed.

“That’s the next steps in showing that there is a medical necessity for these services to be provided, not just for young individuals for early interventions, but older individuals as well.”

The spokesperson said, “While there is still work to be done locally, the Summit confirmed for both Ms. Harvey and Ms. Furbert that Tomorrow’s Voices is on the right path to providing services and advocacy for those with autism and other developmental disabilities.”

Ms. Harvey said, “The major take home is that we have done the fundamental steps that just about everyone around the world is doing and we are on par.

“There is still a lot of growing that we need to do in Bermuda but it was good to see the long-term results so that we can continue in the way we are working, in the way that we are advocating and spreading awareness to inform everyone why it’s important to have these evidence-based services and also why it’s important to have insurance coverage, especially for our parents.”

For more information about Tomorrow’s Voices, contact Stacy Hill at 297-4342 or email info@tomorrowsvoices.bm.

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  1. Congratulations, Thea, on this well-deserved honor!

  2. Thea Furbert says:

    Thanks Lorri! Can’t wait to do more for my beautiful island.

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