According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1 in 54 children are on the Autism Spectrum. As World Autism Month comes to a close, it is essential to remember that there are many resources families can access at the local, state, and national level year-round. These resources make a huge difference in the quality of life for those living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Among organizations that serve young adults with ASD is the HDS Foundation (HDSF). I had the opportunity to speak with Cristina Miranda Gilson, Chairman and President of the HDS Foundation. She shared that, as the parent of a college senior on the Autism Spectrum, the journey is often overwhelming for parents and family members, as well as the individuals affected.
Each child’s situation is different, and today there are many resources available that provide information and services, but these are not always the right fit. The family must plan ahead and navigate the school system, medical needs, therapeutic and psychological needs, not to mention social, living, and other conditions affecting their child. The layers of information and requirements are daunting at times. The parent becomes an advocate, caretaker, counselor and takes on many other roles. This can take an enormous toll on the family.
Cristina strongly believes that there is a need to compartmentalize this journey and manage the information on hand today. One of the missions of the HDS Foundation is to help parents and students create a toolbox comprised of the resources that best apply to them—this allows the family to make better choices. Cristina feels that although the number of resources and outcomes for this population has increased tremendously, the downside is the ability to navigate them. This affects the child and family as well as the teachers, educational facilitators, and others who support this population in the K-12 setting and in preparation for their post-secondary journey.
The HDS Foundation focuses on the older teens and young adult populations, as the transition into and future outcomes in adulthood depend on how they navigate their journey during these years. They have so many possibilities for their future, but it takes a village to get them there. Through the HDS Foundation website, you can now access a library of resources by categories and learn about new programs and upcoming events. The Foundation even offers a tool that helps you compare resources, making it easier to find the right fit. HDSF hopes to keep working with the high schools and post-secondary programs working with businesses big and small through community-based collaborations to make this happen.
Like Cristina, I, too, have an adult child on the Autism Spectrum. Our son Devin’s milestones have been different from others, but he’s moving forward in his life. We are incredibly proud of the responsible adult he has become. Like many other young adults, he is working to make his dreams a reality one day at a time. We need to continue to support other young people like him by giving them the proper tools to create rewarding and fulfilling lives.