Nearly 25 years ago, the Autism Society launched a nationwide campaign to promote awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a complex developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism Awareness Month is today celebrated each April in an effort to shine a light on a disorder that has grown significantly in prevalence, now affecting 1 out of every 59 children born each year in the United States, a rate that has more than doubled since 2004.
Koinonia shares the Autism Society’s deep and abiding commitment to providing adults with ASD the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life. More than 25% of our residents in our group homes, shared living, supported living and respite care programs have been diagnosed with autism, while more than 50% of our clients who benefit from our adult day, senior and supported employment services have received a diagnosis of autism.
Throughout our history, we have provided many opportunities for individuals with autism to enjoy meaningful employment, to volunteer and to fully participate in the communities in which they live.
One such individual is Mark. Like most young adults, Mark dreamed of landing a job so that he could earn his own money, be independent, and have a safe place to call home, many of the things we all want.
But autism, depression and anxiety often made life difficult for Mark. When he first moved out of his family home and into a Koinonia licensed group home in 2014, he experienced a number of challenges in social settings, especially when interacting with his peers. He struggled with harmful behaviors and was a flight risk. He required constant supervision, which didn’t allow him very much time to be alone.
Using three simple strategies – predictability, visual supports, and heavy sensory activity – as well as stabilizing him on the right psychotropic medications, Koinonia staff helped Mark begin to make significant improvements. His harmful behaviors became less frequent, he became more accepting of change, and he started to take personal responsibility for his actions.
Today, Mark lives in a smaller Koinonia neighborhood home, where he is learning his way around town by bicycling with staff. He volunteers at Ronald McDonald House and Holy Family Hospice and is learning about jobs in the community. He created a schedule for himself and follows it carefully, and as a result is earning the trust and admiration of those around him.
At Koinonia, we are determined to make sure people facing challenges like Mark have a safe place to call home and the chance to live a fulfilling life. We remain committed to ensuring all individuals with disabilities have opportunities to learn, find employment, and connect with their community.