Countdown to the Nantucket Walk: Giving Back to the Community

Friday, August 16, 2013 View Comments

This is a blog post by Kim Horyn, the Director of the Autism Speaks Nantucket Resource Center on the island of Nantucket, Mass. Through the Resource Center, the funds raised from the Nantucket Walk event tomorrow help provide resources and support to the Nantucket community all-year round.

Our Nantucket Walk Now for Autism Speaks is this Saturday at 8:30 am at Jetties Beach! In addition to helping Autism Speaks meet its mission, this Walk also makes the Nantucket Autism Speaks Resource Center possible.

The Resource Center is a pilot program of Autism Speaks, and it is hoped that eventually our organization will replicate the Nantucket model throughout the country. Basically, we are trying to lessen the isolation of families touched by Autism and other disabilities through family activities, educational forums and workshops, respite opportunities, parent networking events and a babysitter/companion list, comprised of teachers and teaching assistants, as well as siblings, which is in hot demand in the summer when families are vacationing and thrilled to be able to have a “date night.” Siblings are not only unflappable with a meltdown, but they are also sensitive to the other siblings and their needs.

Parents tell us they would rather wait for the ‘DVD’ than take the family to the movies, due to the stressful experience of their child on the spectrum getting up and down, pacing, spinning, shrieking – and the stares, glares and judgments of the other movie-goers in the  audience around them. The siblings are sinking into their seats with this unwanted attention, and the parents are in a dilemma: do we try to explain our child? Or do we hold our chins up and watch the movie?

That’s where the Nantucket Autism Speaks Resource Center steps in. We offer private movie dates and other events, such as respite opportunities at our Nantucket Boys & Girls Club. Our population of kids aren’t able to go to the Club with their peers because it is too loud and stimulating. So we get the Club to ourselves and the kids have the very best time, running from each of the games in the arcade room to the gym. We do this in the evenings and provide dinner for the kids, so the parents can have dinner out or do something special – or mundane - on their own and get much-deserved time to themselves. Siblings are always welcome, and we’ve noticed that they run to each other: they are becoming friends, due to these events, and they have a lot in common.

At our family events, we have volunteers to play with and shadow the participants, while their parents are visiting, and it warms our hearts to hear snippets of conversations, which includes lots of laughter, suggestions and strategies. It is our feeling that professionals do not educate parents as well as other parents do who have walked in their shoes.

Since Nantucket is 30 miles at sea and only accessible by boat and plane, we are truly isolated: if a service isn’t offered here, we cannot access it because we can’t drive over to the next town to participate. For this reason, parents can’t easily and affordably access important mainland forums, so we try to bring speakers here and utilize our on-island expertise to provide them with the same information that can improve their quality of lives.

The Nantucket Autism Speaks Resource Center is here for year-round, seasonal residents and visitors. We are available to problem-solve and troubleshoot the challenges families and caregivers face, and we will meet with parents, grandparents, educators, social workers – anyone who needs the support we can provide.

MissionThe mis sion of the Nantucket Autism Resource Center is to provide current information and comprehensive resources for families, professionals and the community for the purpose of educating and increasing awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Resource Center is dedicated to empowering families and individuals impacted by autism to make informed decisions by providing topical and user-friendly information - from early intervention through adult care.

For more information about the Nantucket Resource Center, please contact Kim Horyn, Director, Nantucket Autism Speaks Resource Center, khoryn@autismspeaks.org; 646.341.3043.