Autism Action Partnership helps families find programs, housing

Autism Action Partnership works closely with families to help people with autism become independent in their everyday lives.
Published: Aug. 17, 2023 at 10:36 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - According to the CDC, one in 36 kids has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

If your child is among them, you may already know how difficult it is to find support that works.

You’re not alone though.

Chris Goeser says her son, Chase, was diagnosed with autism during his senior year of high school.

“Really didn’t have a lot of friends,” Chris said. “It is very hard for him to, I think, relate to other people. He’s very smart. Very bright kid. Never struggled in school. It was more struggling with the crowds.”

She said within the following year, the family linked up with the Autism Action Partnership (APA), which helped them find a program for him. He’s since become less dependent on family for daily activities.

“He now is very competent in public transportation,” Goeser said. “He rides the bus, he goes by himself, he knows how to Uber.”

AAP CEO Justin Dougherty said that’s what the network is for.

The autism spectrum is so broad that a lot of people get overwhelmed when it comes to finding the right program for their loved ones.

“That’s the norm,” Dougherty said. “The norm is you receive a diagnosis and you’re trying to figure out what questions to ask before you even get the answers. There is medical, there is speech, there are even any of your education systems with special ed, early intervention.”

He said in the 15 years the AAP has been operating, the rate of autism diagnoses has been climbing, making his organization’s work more pertinent.

“We are serving more families. We are evolving our programming to meet the needs.”

Goeser said Chase is now 24 years old and that he graduated from UNO in 2020. He has held down several jobs and an internship, much thanks to the AAP’s help.

However, she said the next step is housing that’s affordable and accommodating to his needs.

“There’s a staff that looks out for him, but what happens when he is on his own?” Goeser said.

That’s why the AAP is putting on a housing market analysis survey for those with autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities.

It’s available through Aug. 24, and the AAP will use the results to put a report together by the end of the year to inform future housing initiatives in Omaha.