Nearly 100 people gathered in Dallas, TX Wednesday evening to discuss the importance of expanding resources, services and opportunities for young adults and adults with autism, as part of Autism Speaks' series of Adult Town Halls focused on housing and residential supports.
Nicole Vasquez, Autism Speaks Field Development Manager in Dallas, TX opened the evening by recognizing Feb 25th as Autism Speaks' 10th year anniversary. A festive blue and white cake (photo) was enjoyed by all guests. She reflected on some of the accomplishments Autism Speaks has made over the years that have helped advance our understanding and treatment of autism.
The focus changed to an important initiative of Autism Speaks to address needs of the rapidly-growing adult population.
The Dallas Adult Services Town Hall brought together young adults and adults with autism, families, service providers and state providers along with a four person expert panel, moderated by Dr. John Burruss, Chief Executive Officer of Metrocare services in Dallas. Dr. Burress asked the panel to introduce themselves and give a short statement about their commitment to Adult Housing and Community living in the Dallas area. From the start, the audience was engaged, asked provocative questions and voiced their concerns about roadblocks. Many people in the room gave details about Texas eligibility for accessing services and how these rules truly left many people without services. Waiting lists are very long, and some people can get to top of the list, find out their child’s IQ is over 70 and not eligible for services.
One common theme carried throughout the evening’s discussion was ADVOCACY. Marianne Sullivan, part of the Community Outreach Team at Autism Speaks, shared that as a parent of a 23-year-old adult son with autism, “I know that by the time our children reach adulthood we can easily feel exhausted. But then the reality sets in and we realize we need to renew our energy to continue to fight for quality services for all our children.” The panel described the various waivers available to people with disabilities and offered a web resource at www.metrocareservices.org.
Dr. Meagan Sumbera described a unique post-secondary program called PATHS. The Certificate Program is offered at the Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University that prepares graduates to be Direct Support Professionals. This two semester certificate program prepares graduates for employment in a career serving people with disabilities.
Robin LeoGrande described how her organization Community for Permanent Supportive Housing will pursue changes to Texas funding for AttendantCare and additional voucher opportunities with Dallas Housing Authority as AttendantCare becomes more accessible.
The evening ended with one last question from a parent, “I am a parent of a 10 year old boy with autism, what should I do today to help my son be prepared for adulthood?” Many in the room responded with advice that included going home that night and putting his name on the HCBS waiver list. The audience agreed there clearly is a need for greater awareness and better education of families of individuals with autism regarding the steps to prepare for adulthood.
Dr. John Burruss, Metrocare Services:
Robin LeoGrande, Community for Permanent Supportive Housing: www.txcpsh.org
Dr. Meagan Sumbera, Texas A&M University, PATHS program: http://paths.tamu.edu/
Dr. Carolyn Garver, Autism Treatment Center: http://atcoftexas.org/
Nagla Moussa, NAA North Texas Chapter: http://naa-nt.org/
Resource Fair Participants & Resource Materials
Residential Funding Opportunities & Resources in Texas
Funding for Housing and Residential Services can be difficult to understand and secure. In an effort to make it easier, we would like to give you a starting place to find information on funding for housing in your state below. In addition, we would encourage you to visit our web page at www.autismspeaks.org/family- services/housing-and-community-living portal page and read through our Tool Kit to learn more about the services and funding that maybe available across the country at www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/housing_tool_kit_web2.pdf.