Founder of United for Autism

A medical doctor by profession, Shpresa Xhakli came to the United States in 1986. She had many plans for her future, but her world crumbled and her life changed forever when Arben, her son, was diagnosed with Autism. She made a promise to him and herself,that she was going to fight for him and others. Shpresa started the “United for Autism ”Foundation in Kosova, the first of it’s kind in the country. She has been quite active in pushing for what is now, a law in Kosova, to protect special needs children, she helped open the first school that addresses their needs and helps to raise awareness about this issue.

Shpresa Xhakli

“My world crumbled and my life changed forever, when at two and a half my son Arben was diagnosed with Autism. I made a promise to him that I was going to fight for him and others”

A medical doctor by profession, Shpresa Xhakli originally from Mitrovice, Kosova came to the United States in 1986. She had many plans for her future in this country, learn English and go back to medical school, but things did not go as planned. Her daughter Adriana was born in 1987 and her son Arben, was born in 1989. After Arben was diagnosed with autism, she began searching for treatments and she never gave up. Arben was going through speech, occupational and behavioral therapy. Shpresa started organizing fundraising events for the New England Center for Children with Autism and was on the board of The Alpine Learning Group.

When the war started in Kosova, Shpresa became part of the Kosova Relief Fond, an organization in New York. She collected clothes, donations and emergency items from her neighbors and even her daughter’s school in NJ. Her house was full of refugees and family members. During this time, she became a member of UNIFEM, a United Nations organization for women and HCUND, a Hospitality Committee for the United Nations delegations. She organized fundraisers for these two organizations for five years.

In 2009, after experiencing her 21 years old son, Arben, transition to adult living home, she made a promise to him and herself. Her promise was to help autistic children who were not fortunate enough to live in this country. She went to Kosova and brought to the U.S. two children’s psychologist who worked with autistic kids. They underwent training at the Alpine Learning School in New Jersey. Shpresa had fundraising events at her house. The money raised was used to buy school supplies for 13 schools in Kosova, that she personally visited.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Kosova, she organized a training seminar with Gregory Manzo MD, where fortyfive Kosovar teachers, educators and psychologists were trained. She and her family donated their apartment in Prishtina and started United for Autism. The first school for autistic children opened up in Kosova in 2012, serving 124 children. There is now a law in Kosova that protects special needs children and there is a push for more awareness in diagnostic and health care. There are more than one thousand special needs children in Kosova. Helping them is a noble mission and Shpresa can not walk it alone.