Last night saw the continuation of the national series of Adult Services Town Halls focused on Housing and Residential Services at Washington University in St. Louis. About 100 attendees joined Autism Speaks to learn more about local resources and supports for adults with autism. Attendees included self-advocates, local autism service providers, families, local educators, students and other members of the community – all understanding the need to work together to create viable housing solutions for our loved ones with autism.
Attendees filled the hall where the Resource Fair was held, visiting with close to 20 autism service providers from throughout the St. Louis area, including housing and residential service providers, employment providers, and adult services and resources, to receive pertinent information and networking with local providers and other attendees. Additionally, all attendees received state-specific information about funding opportunities and resources in Missouri and Illinois.
Following the Resource Fair, the moderated panel discussion allowed attendees to hear from local experts and learn more about the process of obtaining housing and residential supports for adults with autism. The event began with welcome remarks from Dr. John Constantino who serves as the Blanche F. Ittleson Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics as well as the Director of the William Greenleaf Elliot Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Constantino, who also serves as the Science Ambassador on the St. Louis Chapter Board, urged everyone in the room to make it their mission to support their loved ones in being as independent as possible.
The panel discussion was moderated by Greg Yawitz, a parent advocate and St. Louis Chapter Board Member. Greg outlined the need to talk about housing and community living for adults with autism. He acknowledged gaps in services for adults with autism and the need for families and individuals to have access to critical information, resources, and to know what options they have. Mr. Yawitz encouraged the members of the audience to not only to seek out this information, but to be advocates.
The moderated panel featured:
- Kelly Griffon, Community Living Coordinator, St. Louis Regional Office, Department of Mental Health
- Jaime Viviano, Self-Directed Service Coordinator for St. Louis County
- Beth Moeller, Director of Community Living at St. Louis Arc
- Andy Conover, Executive Director of St. Louis Life
- Carol Davis, Director of Community Living- Easter Seals Midwest
- Kim Selders, Research Specialist, Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Missouri, part of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network
The panelists’ diverse backgrounds and roles allowed for an interesting and informative discussion. Each panelist provided valuable information and insights on navigating residential options and funding streams, highlighting local programs and services, as well as strategies to support individuals in developing independent living skills. The panelists emphasized the importance of planning for the future, ensuring care that it is person-centered time to identify the individual’s strengths, interests and needs and build goals around those. Panelists also urged individuals and their families to use the momentum of the Town Hall to start identifying local resources and supports and advocate.
After the panel discussion, attendees asked a variety of questions about local programs and services, funding streams for some of the services discussed, as well as how parents can best advocate on behalf of their adult children.
As the Q&A wrapped up, Greg Yawitz reminded the audience that the Town Hall was the beginning of a conversation about resources for adults with autism and advocating for a better tomorrow.