St. Gerard House is raising $25,000 to provide teens and young adults with autism the opportunity to engage in year-round art therapy to foster life skills, team work and a sense of acceptance.
Liam is fifteen years old. At the age of three he was diagnosed with autism. Anyone who knows Liam knows he is the spokesman for joy, he is personable, he is kind. Liam’s childhood, despite his diagnosis, was full of friendship, resources and fond memories. Growing up, he attended a mainstream school with the support of shadows and tutors and was surrounded by peers who showed him endless love and compassion. Throughout these formative years, there were resources, there was help. Liam graduated from the eighth grade last May. This was a very proud day, but also one that brought great fear and uncertainty for Liam and for his family. Would there be resources available for Liam outside of his elementary and middle school environment? Would there be support?
Truth be told, Liam is only one of an endless stream of teens and young adults on the autism spectrum left without adequate resources and guidance. Three years ago, St. Gerard House established its Feed the Need program and began a fervent quest to fill the void for meaningful services for this growing population, for people like Liam. Specifically geared toward individuals with autism, Feed the Need is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for participants to develop pre-vocational, social and daily living skills. With the skills and experiences gained working in the garden and kitchen, our participants are better prepared to live independent lives.
The Feed the Need: Art program is St. Gerard House’s third offering under the Feed the Need program umbrella. Art, partnered with Applied Behavior Analysis, helps participants gain life skills and a sense of achievement. By providing them this opportunity to take ownership of their successes, their art, self esteem and self respect will flourish. There is not one perfect fit for our participants. Some are suited for the garden or kitchen, while others thrive in front of a blank canvas with a paintbrush in hand. There is no “one size fits all” therapy.
One year after graduating the eighth grade, Liam no longer has the built in support provided by a small school. His classmates are now enrolled in local high schools, busy with sports practices and extracurricular activities. For our young adult autism community, this reality is tough, and for the families we serve, this reality is even more devastating. We must give these individuals EVERY opportunity to make lasting friendships, to pursue passions, to engage, to belong. Our fervent quest is just beginning as we make the dream of expanding our services and providing the Feed the Need: Art program a reality. To our participants and their families, this means more than any of us knows. By giving families this program, we are giving them peace. There is no greater gift than knowing that your child has a place to go, friends to laugh with, mentors to learn from and countless cheerleaders determined to help them succeed.
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