Quest, Inc. Celebrates the 10th Annual Central Florida Autism Speaks Walk
November 10th, 2017 9:16 am

Celebrating Central Florida's Autism Speaks Walk

As Central Florida’s Autism Speaks Walk nears, we at Quest, Inc. would like to take some time to talk about Autism.  With 1 in 68 individuals diagnosed with autism in the U.S., public knowledge and understanding is more vital than ever. Quest has provided services for 1,200 individuals on the autism spectrum and has been a part of the Central Florida Autism Speaks Walk since its conception 10 years ago.

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (also known as ASD) can involve problems in communication and socialization; many children diagnosed with ASD exhibit problem behavior such as tantrums, self-injury, or aggression. No two cases of ASD are the same, so individuals with autism may need minimal to substantial support in day-to-day activities. Signs of ASD can be seen in children as young as 18 months, however, many individuals are not diagnosed until they are older.

There may not be a cure for autism, but there are ways to lessen its impact on the individual. Research shows that Early Intervention helps children diagnosed with autism.  Early Intervention involves a set of services for children from birth to 5 years old that helps the child develop communication, social interaction, and daily living skills. If a parent is believes that their child is in need of Early Intervention services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) can help them get an evaluation for their child. Of these services, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can notably improve a child’s skills.

Helping Children with Autism

Quest Kids uses ABA therapy to develop a variety of skills that will help children reach milestones throughout their lives. Established in 1997, the program is customized to the child’s unique skills, needs, interests, goals, and desires in collaboration with their family. Certified behavior analysts track and evaluate the child’s progress, giving positive reinforcement and guidance to teach skills that help the child achieve greater independence for a more successful future.

 
Ethan* came to Quest Kids at the age of four. He was non-verbal, exhibited temper tantrums many times a day, was not potty trained, and would bite his hand when he was upset. His parents were worried that they could not get through to him or control his aggressive behavior.  When he came to Quest Kids, he was paired with his behavior analyst, Jamie, to work one-on-one on his obstacles. His parents were also trained to help manage his outbursts, teach him to pay attention, and conduct other lessons he needed to practice every day.

Fast forward a year, and Ethan’s temper tantrums have all but disappeared. He is asking for food when he is hungry, uses the bathroom, and has been working on self-care such as brushing his teeth and putting on his own clothes. He had been working on school readiness, and just enrolled in Quest Kids Academy where he will start learning in a three-on-one group. Ethan is working on his reading skills and math, and already knows his numbers and letters. 

 Helping Adults with Autism

As time goes by, children with autism grow into adults with autism. Early Intervention is able to help relieve some or most ASD symptoms, but more often than not, the individual will still live with their diagnosis their entire lives. As they grow out of childhood, the individual may need help finding a job and gaining independence.  Quest, Inc. is there every step of the way.

Quest has a number of vocational programs to help an individual with developmental disabilities, such as autism, gain employment. High school students can take part in Project SEARCH, a one-year, unpaid training program which in turn provides competitive employment opportunities. For adults, Quest offers Adult Day Training (ADT) Centers, small group employment, and supported employment opportunities.

Everyone dreams of starting their own life with their own job and home. For individuals with autism, this goal may be more difficult to attain.  Sometimes an individual may need regular supports throughout their adult life. For these occasions, Quest offers a variety of living services. Those who have problem behavior and therefore need constant supervision are served in behavioral group homes. Individuals who can live mostly independently, but may need regular prompting or check-ups, may be eligible for supported living. Through these programs, individuals can form relationships, gain independence, and live more complete lives.

Individuals with autism are an important part of the community. They are our neighbors, our classmates, our coworkers, and our friends. Through the Autism Speaks Walk, we as a community can form together to help raise awareness and understanding of those with autism.

 
 

Sources:
1. www.questinc.org/learn
2. Blakely, Eb. "Quest, Inc. TownHall Gig." Overview of Developmental Disability. October, 2017.
3. www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism.facts.html
4. www.questinc.org/work
5. www.questinc.org/live

*Ethan’s story is a composite of different children who have participated in the Quest Kids program. Each child has their own unique accomplishments and goals, with varying outcomes.

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