KNOWAutism was founded in 2013 with the goal of helping families of children with autism better navigate the process of diagnosis, treatment, intervention, and education. For the first few years, the organization was run entirely by volunteer efforts led by the founder, Tammy Tran Nguyen, along with board members, friends, and supporters. Their efforts were initially focused on creating an online library of resources, connecting families with support and services, and raising awareness about autism, especially in communities with language barriers. These early efforts included hosting educational seminars on autism for social workers, therapists, and counselors at the Asian American Family Services center and providing financial support for projects like the Light and Salt Special Needs Center at the Chinese Community Center.
Associate Director Lauren Dawson delivers water to Lindale Church following Hurricane Harvey.
As the organization became more established, we shifted our focus to providing direct financial assistance to families and supporting community efforts to serve special needs children. Since 2015, KNOWAutism has provided nearly $150,000 in direct financial assistance through 88 individual grants to families to help cover the costs of diagnostic testing and therapeutic treatment. In the past two years, an additional $50,000 has been used in partnership with TUTS/The River to create the Community Arts Residencies, which has brought inclusive fine arts education to 315 pre-k students at 10 different campuses in Houston ISD as of August 2017. An additional $25,000 was granted to The River in September 2017 to expand this program further.
KNOWAutism also stepped up to serve the Houston community in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. With the help and generosity of Craig Butler at Northside Bananas, we delivered 25,000 bananas to the George R. Brown Convention Center shelter, which was hosting about 10,000 people at that time. We also donated 5,000 individually packaged utensil sets to GRB and 4,360 bottles of water to Lindale Church for distribution to hard hit areas around Houston. These efforts inspired our friends at Quan-Coaster Wholesale to donate an additional 5,000 bottles of water for relief efforts.
Volunteers help unload 250 cases of donated bananas for the shelter at GRB in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Artwork by Luke Bohreer, a talented teenaged artist who has autism. Luke donated the piece for auction at our 2016 Gala, and it now hangs at a restaurant in Midtown.
In the past 4 years, KNOWAutism has funded numerous projects in the community, both large and small. Early on, KNOWAutism recognized the need for a specialized center in Houston that could provide comprehensive assessments, diagnosis, and early intervention for children with autism. To meet this need, the Foundation provided $33,500 to help fund and launch The Stewart Center at The Westview School in 2013. A few years later, KA provided a small grant to Centro De Autismo Cozumel in Mexico for their autism diagnostic program. In partnership with the Pasadena Rotary Foundation, the grant covered diagnostic testing for 400 children at the center.
KA’s disaster assistance efforts are now focused on helping individual special needs families with everything from transitional housing to sensory comfort items to gift cards for groceries and necessities. We are also partnering with special education teachers whose homes and/or classrooms were damaged by the storm to help them replace needed supplies for their public school students. Additionally, KNOWAutism is working to provide weighted blankets from Mosaic Weighted Blankets to children who would benefit.
KNOWAutism is adapting to meet the evolving needs of the autism community, as well as the Houston community as a whole. When we see an opportunity to serve our city, we use our connections, skills, and resources to meet the needs we can. Moving forward, we know children with autism and their families are going to need extra support and love as we all recover from the damage of Hurricane Harvey. We are committed to continuing to serve the ASD community today, tomorrow, and every day to come. Children with autism will continue to need therapeutic services, intervention, special education, and understanding. Their families will continue to need support, encouragement, and access to resources. That is why KNOWAutism is here. As always, we are in this journey together.