The Island Autism Group is a small nonprofit based on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. The group, originally founded by two mothers of 3-year-old boys with autism, has supplied supplemental hard goods and programs to the Island school program for children with autism. We have raised funds for therapeutic riding, iPads, squeeze machines, teacher enrichment programs, sensory camps and many other wonderful programs. There is so much more to be done.
As a parent of a child with autism, now 10 and still non-verbal, I am constantly trying to do all I can for him and for his future. I have found as I talk with other autism parents that there is a huge need for more structure for our children, their families and for adults with autism. If one child in 68 will now receive an autism diagnosis, where will they all be when they turn 22? If you have read about state care facilities in the news recently, we know as parents that no one wants that for their child.
The ability to network with other parents and share resources — everything from doctors and specialists to babysitters and camp programs, is invaluable. Autism affects the whole family and the whole family needs support.
I started thinking of an Island Autism Center on the Vineyard that could possibly grow into something that could be replicated in other communities. This center would be a place with small cabins where families could come and stay. In addition to going to the beach, riding horses at a local therapeutic riding center, and working in the farm garden along with their parents and siblings, speech, occupational and physical therapies could be woven into their day. Parents could attend gluten-free cooking classes, learn about latest thoughts in the autism field, and meet with other parents to hear about programs that have worked for them; treat the whole family and let all these families get together and support each other and learn from each other.
On the same property there would be a small co-housing village where adults with autism could live independently or in groups depending on their needs. Teachers and trainers in the program could live in the housing as residential advisors. Their living spaces would be at reduced cost in exchange for their participation in the program.
My wish is that the Island Autism Center would provide my son and other people living with autism the opportunity to be part of a community that embraces the older and younger people with autism and their families. Such a Center would meet so many needs and provide so much healing.
Won’t you help us make our vision a reality?