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CNN Hero: Dr. Wendy Ross

Updated 2:01 PM ET, Tue April 21, 2015
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Dr. Wendy Ross is opening new worlds to autistic children and their families. Her nonprofit, Autism Inclusion Resources, has helped hundreds of families navigate challenging social situations such as sporting events, museum visits and airport travel. KRISANNE JOHNSON
Ross, far right, partnered with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012 to develop a program through which game-day employees learn about autism and how to interact with individuals on the spectrum so that families feel supported during baseball game outings. KRISANNE JOHNSON/CNN
Ross, a developmental pediatrician, was heartbroken to hear that many parents of children on the autism spectrum were skipping social situations out of fear. KRISANNE JOHNSON/CNN
Building on her success with the Phillies, Ross is now working with Philadelphia's football and hockey teams. Soon she wants to partner with the city's public transportation agency ."The hope for Philadelphia is to make it the most autism-friendly city in the country," she said. KRISANNE JOHNSON/CNN
Ross helps prepare families for Phillies games by providing booklets illustrating each step of the game. She also escorts families to their first game, and each family is paired with a clinician should additional support be required. KRISANNE JOHNSON/CNN
Game tickets are donated to the families by the Phillies. KRISANNE JOHNSON/CNN
"It's not enough to work with a child with autism, because we need the community to accept them," Ross said. "You would never show someone how to use a wheelchair and then not have a ramp." KRISANNE JOHNSON/CNN
Ross hopes that families will become inspired to attend games on their own and explore other public settings as well. "If kids are not in the community, building their skills from very young ages, then there's no reason to expect them to be independent one day," she said. KRISANNE JOHNSON/CNN
Since 2010, more than 200 families have benefited from Ross' initiatives. KRISANNE JOHNSON/CNN
"If you start taking steps outside of your door, your world gets bigger and bigger," Ross said. "We just want people to have opportunities." KRISANNE JOHNSON/CNN