This year was 23-year-old Elijah Giorgi’s (above left) first time to participate in Art for Autism. Elijah has been drawing since he was 3 and started painting about 6 years ago. His mother, Karen, signed Elijah up for Art for Autism as a learning experience and said, “The day of the show was amazing! Elijah interacted with people who were looking and talking about his work, something big for a young man with autism. I am thankful for the opportunity to stretch Elijah and help him earn his own money to achieve his dreams!”
Not every Art for Autism artist wants to sell their work – and that’s OK. Six-year-old Lily Moreno (above right) learned to draw from her grandfather. Although Lily didn’t want to sell her creations, she enjoyed sharing them with the people who stopped by her booth. “It was a great opportunity for Lily to socialize and talk about her art,” said her mother, Kathy. “The mother of one of the artists in the booth next to us actually works at Lily’s school, so we were able to make new friends and add to Lily’s support group. Lily enjoyed herself and is already looking forward to next year!”
Art for Autism is hosted by the Autism Treatment Center and organized by a team of volunteers including partners from the Autism Society of Texas and Mindcolor Autism. The venue is donated by The Shops at La Cantera and other expenses are funded by support from local businesses and our event sponsors, KRW Lawyers and the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation. Click here to see more photos and a list of all the Art for Autism sponsors and artists.
Michael used to live in one of our Dallas area group homes for students with autism. Recently, he moved into a Host Home where he lives with a family, but we still get to see him everyday.
Before graduating from South Garland Highschool last year, Michael participated in a Job Readiness program through the Plano ISD to help define his work interest and skills. During that time he was given an opportunity to work in various jobs for 6 weeks at a time. Michael gained experience working at a hotel, a grocery store, a gym, and at another nonprofit sorting donations.
We're pleased to say that the skills Michael gained led him back to our Dallas program. He now works part-time at the front desk answering the phone, sorting mail, delivering packages, and keeping our copy room stocked.
Dr. Carolyn Garver, ATC Dallas Program Director, said, "He is very helpful and is always asking what he can do for me. He has been an asset to the program and will go out of his way to help."
In addition to being a great help in the office, Michael is also known to spread a little joy in his free-time. When things are slow at the front desk he likes to draw various cartoon characters and will often gift his sketches to staff. Take a tour and you may spot a few hanging around the office.
Ian had a chance to step into his own acting role last Christmas to play Santa for the school’s holiday party where his mother, Danielle, works. “He was nervous at first,” says Danielle. “We encouraged him and told him how helpful it was that he was willing. Soon, he asked for his own suit.” Ian was a huge hit with the children and he enjoyed it so much that he dressed as Santa for several family gatherings, too.
Ian’s special interest in the theater is more than just a hobby for him. It is a way for him to give back and engage with others. As his mother says, “Ian is definitely the most fun part of our family. He keeps us on our toes with all of his great ideas.”
For Valentine's Day we decided to ask a few of our students and residents for their thoughts on love. Here's what they had to say
Alberto is an amazing asset to our team. We are excited to announce his promotion to San Antonio Educational Coordinator!
Alberto joined ATC San Antonio as a Certified Teacher in August 2022. Since then he has helped further our Education Program by utilizing his certification in Physical Education. Students now have individualized gym classes to help them use their energy in a proactive way.
Alberto has excellent communication with not only the ATC team but the students' parents, making sure they are involved in their child’s daily activities and watching them achieve their goals. Alberto continues to learn more about our company daily and has shown tremendous work ethic along with helping out with further educating our Converse Fire Department. He collaborates easily with all departments, and is a great example of a team player. He even helped a parent at the clinic jump-start their car after a long tiring day!
We've all heard of the buddy system - pairing up to ensure everyone is safe and doing well. With this in mind, Jack Rykert, a San Antonio high school student at St. Mary's Hall, created The Buddy System Club. Inspired by his brother Luke, an ATC student, Jack created the club because he wanted his brother to have some new experiences that he might not have otherwise had the opportunity to encounter. The mission of The Buddy System is to foster a more empathetic, socially conscious, and selfless student body through community service for those with special needs in San Antonio.
We were so happy to welcome The Buddy System Club to ATC! The students dropped off donations of household essentials, art supplies, and games for our residents. The best part of their visit was the time spent doing activities and playing games with our students. It was a wonderful time of making new friends and sharing the day together!
We love the mission of The Buddy System Club and look forward to seeing how they continue to inspire the community.
Ken Kellam, Office Assistant at ATC's main office in Dallas, is sharing his knowledge and unique perspective with first responders. Most recently, he spoke at the Garland Police Department to educate officers on autism to help them understand what kind of behaviors they might encounter in the field and offer strategies on how to best deal with these behaviors.
When asked about why these talks are important Ken said, "I think it’s better that I do these presentations than someone else, because I always identify myself as a person on the spectrum, and that alone sometimes helps them put a face to Autism Spectrum Disorder. I once did a presentation for a department in another county, and one officer described it as “eye-opening.” They see that just because someone is on the spectrum, that doesn’t mean he can’t be verbal, and even social."
Ken spent time with the officers answering questions and showing clips of TV shows as examples to discuss people on the spectrum and the issues they and their families may face. And, he's got jokes. After showing a clip of a child having a major meltdown he quipped, “That was me after the Cowboys lost.”
We're proud of the work Ken is doing to create more understanding of autism in the community.
thought it was going to be about analyzing behavior like they do in the FBI. However, I soon learned about ABA therapy and how it can be used to modify behaviors. I loved it! As the class went on, I learned that UTSA and the Autism Treatment Center (ATC) were providing an opportunity to allow undergraduates like me the opportunity to participate in a paid internship using ABA therapy with kids diagnosed with autism. This was an amazing experience since I was able to see the effect that ABA therapy has in modifying behaviors and made many special connections. Every day was exciting because every kid is so unique, which means the therapy used is based on the individual child, rather than being based on what has worked in the past. There is not "one method fits all" approach.
After the internship, I did a competition called the "Roadrunner Showcase" at UTSA, where everyone gets to share an experience they have done and are judged on what they learned from it and their comprehension of what they did. I did mine on my experience of learning what ABA therapy is in the class and my internship at ATC. I ended up getting second place! That wasn't even the best part. When the event was over, a woman came up to me who told me she had a four-year-old son that was diagnosed with autism, and that my presentation meant so much to her. She thanked me for doing the experience and working with children with autism like her son. She also told me that ABA therapy is already changing both of their lives. We both got emotional and kept hugging each other. By the end of the conversation, I felt like I had known her forever. It's crazy how something like this can bring people together.
This experience showed me that ABA therapy can change peoples' lives and that these kids are not defined by their disabilities. This was the first time I ever felt like I was truly doing something that makes a difference. I am planning on continuing to work in ABA after I graduate so that I continue to make a difference!"
Many of the children who attended had never been able to get a picture with Santa before because they couldn’t tolerate being at a crowded, noisy event or they wouldn’t cooperate when it was time to get their picture taken. That is why it was so important to have a place where they didn’t have to wait in a line and it didn’t matter if they had behaviors.
The families were so happy to have a dedicated event for their children to get a photo with Santa. “Our son Josh is the biggest fan of Santa,” said Adriana Crostley. “His face lit up as soon as he saw Santa walk into the room and he loves looking at his picture. We are grateful to the Autism Treatment Center, because they made it possible for Josh to spend time with Santa Claus in a sensory-friendly environment.”
Amy Miller brought her son, Henry, and two of his friends to get their photos. “This event was important for us,” she said, “because it was a safe environment where I knew no one would look at the kids any differently if they had a hard time. There was no long line to wait for Santa which was perfect for us because lines can be difficult sometimes. Everyone we came into contact with was nice and made the event fun for the kids. The kids all used the sensory activities so I know lots of planning went into the event to make it a fun place for them.“
Our Santa for this event was Rene’ Flores Martinez who is serving as the Grand Commander for the Order of Alhambra Caravan #269, a Catholic fraternal organization dedicated to serving people with developmental disabilities. Santa Rene’ not only volunteered his time, he collected stuffed toys and snacks that he gave to everyone after their photo.
Our thanks to all the volunteers who helped make this day so special for the children, adults and families who came to see Santa. Every one of them was able to take home a photo with Santa and memories they can treasure forever.
A Grand Celebration
On December 7th, ATC hosted a grand re-opening in Dallas at our newly renovated group home for adults with autism. After months of construction, staff, residents, family, and board members gathered to celebrate with an official ribbon cutting presented by the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce. You can't have a celebration without snacks, so adults from ATC's culinary vocational program were the happy greeters welcoming guests with refreshments. When needed updates in the home where identified, ATC Board Member Monte Zajicek - a retired architect - worked to make sure the project was completed with the goal of keeping our residents safe and comfortable. Monte was presented with a gift of appreciation for his tireless dedication to ATC and those we serve. Thank you to everyone who attended and to all the donors who helped make this night possible!
Join ATC's Autism Allies by becoming a monthly donor!
Joining the Autism Allies, our treasured community of monthly donors, is the easiest most effective way to support children and adults with autism who need your help.