Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact in the world.
October 20, 2022
Dr. Amanda Kelly | Firefly Autism
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
I’m Amanda Kelly, the CEO of Firefly Autism. Firefly Autism is an incredible organization serving individuals with autism and their families. We have a broad range of services anywhere from diagnostic evaluations, to early intervention services for children as young as 18 months, school and center programs for 3-21 year-olds, home-based services, sibling and social skills groups, adult groups, transition to work program, and community training and support. We are dedicated to celebrating the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum through learning, support, and solutions. At Firefly we are proud of our innovative, individualized programs and one on one support. We cultivate meaningful and impactful relationships with individuals, families, and communities we serve.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
Well…It’s a fun story! I was born in Ireland and grew up in a rural village called Castletown Geoghegan in Co. Westmeath. My twin sister and I moved to Dublin to work at a school for kids with autism in our early 20s, and during that time graduated from University with Doctorates in Psychological Science and Behavior Analysis. After my doctorate, I became credentialed as a Doctoral level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D). The opportunities in Ireland at the time for that role were not great, so I decided I’d move to the USA for “a year or two” to work at this amazing-sounding organization called Firefly Autism. Fast forward almost 10 years and I’m still here! I was appointed CEO of Firefly in December 2021 which was a great honor. It’s been the most amazing decade and I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years bring!
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
This work is life-changing. Some of the first kids I ever worked with basically had nowhere else to go. It was amazing to see the growth and development that targeted care could foster and it was so important for the families to see their children getting the care and education that they so deserved. I’ve worked with children who were not able to talk or express themselves at three and four years old, to being chatty pre-teens essentially indistinguishable from their peers at 10 or 11 years old. You can’t put into words what that kind of transformation does for families and the opportunities it opens up for the people we work with. For the last few years, I’ve done much less work with clients and have been in leadership roles. It’s so important to me to be a transparent, compassionate leader, to practice what I preach, admit my mistakes (there are many!), and constantly try to improve.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Firefly as a whole makes impacts beyond measure. The depth and breadth of our care and dedicated support for so many individuals have impacts that reverberate out into the direct and extended family units and communities as a whole.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
My inspiration for this work is every person who has ever been touched by autism. Understanding the potential and amazingness that lies in every single person. The uniqueness, strengths, and differences that make up the individual and how a little, or sometimes a lot, of guidance can make a massive difference. It’s so inspiring. And sometimes hard. But that’s life too, isn’t it?!
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
We want to make sure that no individual gets left behind, that opportunities and choices exist for those we work with, and to make sure autism is more understood.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
I think like any organization these days we face challenges with wanting to do so much, but have to realize that we have to grow very thoughtfully, especially in this post-pandemic environment. We also have a big building to maintain which can also be challenging, as every home or property owner knows!
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR CAUSE AND/OR THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
I think just that autism is a broad spectrum, no “one size fits all” approach can ever be adequate. That’s why what Firefly does is so special. Approaching care while focusing on the values of the individuals and families we work with is so important.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
I really want to say yes but, I’ve never been an inspirational quote sort of person. I get inspired by too many things! I do have “Change is inevitable, transformation is intentional” written on the whiteboard in my office. Does that count?!
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Please consider supporting our amazing organization. We have so many ways to get involved – anyone can visit our website or social media pages to learn more. Colorado Gives Day is just around the corner so consider choosing us as a beneficiary. We also have our AMAZING annual gala in April next year. We will have lots of information on that on our social media pages and website and would love support there.
At Orapin, we believe those who are working for the greater good should be known, supported, and celebrated. We give purpose-driven organizations that want to do PR the strategy, resources, and support they need to get started so they can increase awareness and maximize their impact. If would like to be featured in INSPIRED IMPACT™, reach out to email@example.com.