Giving Back and Autism
Mobility for Kids Was Founded Because of a Personal Connection to Autism
John Harmer, the first Mobility for Kids executive director, was a successful attorney who understood the importance of giving back to the community. The former California state legislator and Lieutenant Governor helped found this organization because he was passionate about helping children. One of his brothers had autism and he knew firsthand how vital it is that all children are given the chance to play and exercise with their peers. Before John passed away, he handed off the organization’s reins to another attorney in the family, his daughter-in-law, Elayne Wells Harmer.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects 1 in 36 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This neurodevelopmental disorder can cause social, communication, and behavioral challenges that can last a lifetime. While there is no cure for ASD, early intervention and therapy can significantly improve outcomes for those with the disorder. However, therapy can be costly, and many families struggle to afford it.
Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. The severity of symptoms can vary widely, from mild to severe, and can include difficulties in language development, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests. The exact causes of ASD are unknown, but experts believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a role.
The Importance of Early Intervention
Early intervention is key to improving outcomes for individuals with ASD. The earlier children receive a diagnosis and starts therapy, the better their chances of developing essential social, communication, and life skills. Studies have shown that early intervention can significantly improve outcomes for children with ASD, leading to improved academic and social functioning, increased independence, and better overall quality of life.
Types of Autism Therapy
There are several types of therapy that can help individuals with ASD develop essential skills and overcome challenges. These therapies include:
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
ABA is a type of therapy that focuses on behavior and how it is affected by the environment. The goal of ABA therapy is to teach individuals with ASD new behaviors and skills while reinforcing positive behaviors.
Individuals with ASD can benefit from speech therapy to help them improve their language and communication skills. It can also help with social communication, such as taking turns in conversations and understanding social cues.
Occupational therapy helps individuals with ASD improve their fine motor skills, such as writing and using utensils. It can also help with sensory processing issues and other challenges that can affect daily life.
Those with ASD can improve their gross motor skills, such as walking or running through physical therapy. They also find it can help their coordination, balance, and strength.
Social Skills Therapy
Social skills therapy can help individuals with ASD learn essential social skills, such as making eye contact, taking turns in conversations, and interpreting social cues.
The Cost of Autism Therapy
Unfortunately, therapy can be costly, and many families struggle to afford it. The cost of autism therapy can vary widely depending on the type of therapy and the location. According to Autism Speaks, ABA therapy can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 per year, while speech therapy can cost $100 to $250 per hour.
Mobility for Kids sees all of this as an opportunity to fund research that investigates low-cost ways to test existing exercise and therapeutic mobility devices to improve the fitness, quality of life, and functioning of children with autism.