It is Autism Awareness Month once again. So where are we now, as we are emerging from our COVID cocoons?
I must admit that there wasn’t that much in our area to begin with compared to other parts of town, but the Autism Society in Webster is now defunct, our YMCA has closed, and I’m not even sure (I’ve made several inquiries) if the ARC of the Gulf Coast is still with us. There have been so many closures, including my favorite meet-up spot, Putt Putt Fun House, which had something for everyone, including a cafe for parents to congregate. Replacing PPFH will not be easy!
In recent weeks, I have thought about relaunching a new and improved EA with a Facebook page to make it easier to communicate (in 2023, hello!) instead of my old clunky email distribution list, which was fine for 2012 . . . I am working on that, but I feel like I am starting over, which realistically, I am. My meet-up hasn’t met up in three years (we stopped during COVID), and my own kid is now 18. He and I recently traveled to Florida for a special inpatient treatment program for teens with autism and OCD begun there by the famous Dr. Eric Storch (Baylor researcher with an international reputation for OCD and autism), who is now here in Houston, but after clearing it through insurance, traveling all that way for this Tampa program, they told us the program is no more.
It isn’t all bad news post the COVID apocalypse. I suppose because of the low interest rates, there have been some new construction projects going on around Texas which might positively impact the autism and IDD community. New private residential homes and whole congregate care communities are being built as we speak, some dotted with rows of tiny houses (No one seems to have considered a trailer park model yet, but I’m sure it is coming). Examples of these can be seen here, in this PDF from a presentation put together by the Consolidated Planning Group. (For those unfamiliar with this group, this is an agency which helps families with special needs kids plan for the future. They also provide some interesting online webinars.) Unfortunately, slots in these new developments are all seemingly in the $3000-5000 / month range, too much for most families I know. Consolidated Planning Group and a special division of Mass Mutual called “SpecialCares” will both help families plan to leave behind an estate to fund the gap between SSI and a lifetime of care.
Also new for April 2023, the CDC announced the incidence of autism to be 1:36, up from last year’s 1:44, 1:68 in 2017, and when mine was diagnosed, 1:150. (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html). The need for housing and care will be great.
I don’t care what people say about celebrating neurodiversity, autism is an epidemic. Elon Musk shouldn’t be lambasted because he casually referred to autism as a “brain-related disease, like schizophrenia,” when he speaks about the benefits of his venture, Neuralink, and a potential cure for autism. We see in our social media feeds during April (Autism Awareness Month) savants doing magic tricks and beautifully singing even Simon Cowell to tears on American Idol. But most autistic people are not savants. I think I read that 75% (I need to check this) cannot carry on carry on a conversation and many are obsessed with maps, schedules, calendars, spinning fans, Spiderman or stuff neurotypicals we cannot easily relate to and are not likely to lead to lucrative careers. I read that 40% of all those diagnosed with autism have never had any paying job.
Ok, so apart from new homes and Elon Musk, what else is new for 2023?
There is a new adaptive recreational center being built by UTMB Health and Sports Medicine with funding from the Christina Sullivan Foundation. I am looking into that now to see if it is post-worthy. I have also made recent updates to the Autism Resource Directory and renewed my commitment to keeping it up.
I would love for more people to submit resources and / or reviews, even if anonymously!
CCISD has started a most excellent Special Needs Parent Resource Center with monthly presentations. The resource center has all sorts of flyers and information on child care, ARD meetings, social security and therapy.
The University of Houston Clear Lake Art School is once again offering a Friday morning and afternoon art classes for autistic kids.
For those interested in equine therapy, I stopped by the wonderful Bay Area Equestrian Center in Pearland and I was told that they have a program for special needs kids. I didn’t see it on their website, though. The loud neighing, whinnying, stomping and snorting of the spirited Arabians from their stalls was surprising and a bit intimidating for us. I think it was feeding time, or Spring time, or something was going on. These spirited horses are unlike the laid-back quarter horses I’m used to. . . (I’m sure the ones for equine therapy are docile enough, though).
I’m wondering if anyone knows of a sensory friendly spinning class. So far, they are all fairly deafening. My son and I went to a free spinning class at the new SPENGA on Bay Area Boulevard and my son had to jump off his bike, run outside and scream at the top of his lungs (the music was too loud for him, even with sound-blocking headphones). The girl at the desk was unflappable. She said, “I work for CCISD, I am used to it. . . ” (She left out that she worked with SPED kids, and we had a laugh.) Maybe if enough parents are interested, we can form an autism-friendly spin class and get them to turn down the volume just a bit?
Oh, yes, there is something new I think many parents will love. . . I just found out about this fitness franchise called Special Strong which opened up on our side of town. It offers adaptive fitness classes at different locations in League City and Friendswood. Some of the classes are kickboxing, aquatics, dance and bouncing (trampoline camp). This is a flyer for it:
Coach Mike and his staff have experience managing classes for kids and adults with special needs.
As always, comments and posts, as well as your vacation photos to great places, are always welcome.