In celebration of Autism Acceptance Month, the Seattle Children’s Autism Blog shares a story about a mother of twin daughters who both have autism and who shows her gratitude for the Seattle Children’s Autism Center by conducting an annual Autism Gratitude Project

Earlier this year, my dear friend, Belma Slatina, came to me with the idea of conducting a toy drive for autism. Belma Slatina knows the journey I have been on with my twin daughters, Aliya and Kira, who were diagnosed with autism five years ago, and she has other close friends whose children have autism. It is because of her connection to autism and the fact that she continues to look for new ways to give back to the community through her foundation, the Slatina Foundation, that she decided to do so through a donation drive for autism.

When Belma Slatina first came to me with the idea to conduct a toy drive for autism, I told her about my yearly Autism Gratitude Project, an annual project that I started in 2019 to show my appreciation for the staff at the Autism Center for their relentless care and support. I told Belma how much Seattle Children’s is a pillar for our community and how they positively impact so many lives, including Aliya and Kira’s. So we partnered up and started gathering toy donations at her salon, Royal Brows, to donate to the Seattle Children’s Autism Center in celebration of Autism Acceptance Month.

At the end of the toy drive, we were able to more than fill the box you see in the picture with all of those amazing toys! We are so appreciative to all those that donated to help us spread love, acceptance and awareness about autism, and for helping us show gratitude to the amazing staff at the Seattle Children’s Autism Center for all they do.




We were so excited to deliver these gifts to show our gratitude and support to Seattle Children’s Autism Center and the autistic community. 

“The donated toys provided a much-needed infusion of new toys and learning materials to the Early Intervention Program. In this program, children receive therapy for 12 hours per week so having a large variety of toys and materials for teaching is vital to the children staying motivated and engaged. We are so grateful to Nataly for these much needed items, which are already being put to great use by our current Early Intervention patients!” 

The Autism Gratitude Project began in 2019 when I wanted to find a way to thank every specialist at the Autism Center for all the help they give thousands of families a year. The Autism Center made it possible for me to experience new things in life with my daughters and helped me to meet parts of them that were harder to reach. I’m eternally grateful and since then have done a gratitude project every year. This year’s project was the toy drive.

These past 5 years the Autism Center has been our main support system, especially through COVID when many community services paused. The Autism Center stepped up in the community with telemedicine and we are so eternally grateful to have had so much support during a pandemic.

To this day, they are crucial and currently work with our in-home team and school district to help us navigate the complexities of severe autism. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of sharing our journey and advocating for Aliya and Kira so that more families have access to the care they need. The Autism Center continues to support our advocacy efforts in hopes of a better future for all neurodiverse individuals by creating awareness and promoting acceptance. I truly have so much gratitude for all the specialists we have had the pleasure to work with because of how they listen, collaborate and use the latest research to help our children. 

Today, Aliya and Kira are almost 7 years old and they are thriving. They communicate on their AAC (Augmentative Alternative Communication) tablets and love to hug each other. So much has changed thanks to all the hard work and dedication from the staff, we wouldn’t be here today if not for all the support. 

I look forward to many more years with our extended family at the center and to continue to all watch Aliya and Kira grow and flourish into the beautiful people they are. I’m so proud of them and so grateful to be their mom, they changed my life. They have taught me more than I can even put into words, and little by little they are changing the world by encouraging acceptance of autism. Thank you to all of you at Seattle Children’s Autism Center for always being there, always supporting our community, always going above and beyond. Even though Aliya and Kira are not able to currently tell you how much they appreciate you all and care for you, they do! They light up every time we step foot at the center, and that’s due to all the love compassion, empathy and support you have given us. Thank you for being a puzzle piece to our journey.

To our current in-home ABA team, thank you for working so hard in collaboration with Seattle Children’s to give Aliya and Kira a better day every day. If you have not visited the center to help your family, I truly think all the resources and services have been crucial for so many milestones in our life.