July 22, 2009
Unless you are related to or have a close friend affected by Asperger's Syndrome or Autism, you probably don't know a lot about it. I didn't until a few years ago. My mom's best friend's baby boy was diagnosed with Autism when he was 2 years old. He's now 9 and is a sweet, loving little kid with a soft spot in his heart for rubber ducks, balls in socks, and Dora the Explorer. He loves to swim and has a smile that positively makes you melt. He can sign for food, drink, and a number of other things, but he doesn't speak.
Children with Autism are a challenge for the public school system. While many attend public schools when they are young, some of the more severely Autistic kids become too much for the teachers to handle when they hit jr. high age and are forced out, usually into private care that their parents (typically without the help of insurance) are expected to fund themselves. This type of care is called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy and can cost parents $30,000 - $50,000 a YEAR for 1 child. If a family has to pay for ABA for their child from the age of 3 to 18, that's like paying for college 15 times before they even graduate from high school. I don't know about you, but not many people I know have that kind of money.
My mom's friend, a former employee of our local public school district, realized early in her son's life that the system wasn't going to meet his special needs, and that she would likely need to find some other alternative before he got out of elementary school. Thus, Spectrum of Hope was born. It has grown from a small, daycare-like facility to a full-blown pre-K/elementary/jr. high-age ABA therapy center. SOH has year-round sessions that focus solely on ABA methods in social and classroom settings. To watch it grow over the past few years has been amazing.
Now running her own therapy center (with the help of my mom, the SOH Business Manager!), my mom's friend quickly realized that the cost of the therapy was clearly too much for most parents to carry on their own, which is where the idea for FACES (Foundation for Autism Care, Education and Services) came from. FACES provides scholarships (full or partial, depending on our funds at the time os application) to families wishing to send their children to ABA therapy centers. Some can provide funds to assist with the scholarships they're asking for from us, some can't. We provide scholarships to as many as we can.
I've been on the board for the past 2 years and while I wish I had more money to contribute to our cause, I give as much time as I can to the organization. I love what we do and hope that we can continue to grow and help even more families in the future. Our ability to do this comes from charitable donations from the community, as well as from proceeds from events we put on each year. In the spring, we organize a golf tournament, which has been a great success so far. In the summer, we host a Casino Night, which is a BLAST. We hope to organize a skeet-shoot in the fall, but haven't been able to get that together yet.
This Saturday is the 3rd Annual Casino Night. It's at the Greenwood Forest club house and we're expecting about 200-250 people. The entry fee gets you $2,000 in casino chips, free buffet and drinks for the evening. There is a silent auction as well as a live auction (I was the auctioneer last year - it's exciting!) at the end of the night. I haven't advertised it on my blog, as pretty much all those who read this thing are either already coming or are volunteering at the event, but if you're a new reader and are interested in donating/volunteering/attending, please visit the FACES website (facesautism.org) or contact me directly (cherylwittmann at gmail dot com). Every little bit helps!!
Inspired by MamaKat's Writer's Workshop Wednesday