Nearly 500,000 children with autism will be entering adulthood this decade. That is an unsettling thought for the parents who start losing services when their kids turn 18 years old.
And it's an important issue championed by a nationally-known local autism blogger.
One of the featured artists at Thursday Hillsboro Village Art Walk is blogger Leisa Hammett's 17-year-old daughter Grace Goad. Grace can't sign her name, but she can paint beautifully.
Her work is now on display all over the country thanks to her talent and her dedicated mom.
Grace has four national art shows this year. She has a line of stationary, and she has sold or displayed 73 different paintings. Her color and composition are beyond her years, and all of this is only because her mom was relentless in finding her quality service.
"My child studies her palette, studies her paper and is very intentional," Hammett said. "She is not able to carry on a conversation with you. You don't know what's going on with her, but you look at her art and watch her create her art, and it's very, very intentional."
But as Grace approaches her 18th birthday, many of the services that have helped shape her, from occupational and speech therapy to horse back riding, begin to disappear.
For adults with autism, and their families, adulthood brings many uncertainties.
"You begin to lose a lot of services out of autism. We've got this generation of youth with autism that has grown up in mass, because most people are aware how the numbers have gone up and up," Hammett said. "My daughter was diagnosed in the mid- to early-90s and they've grown up together. Now, I say, they are standing out there on this perilous precipice, looking at what is out there."
Hammett says she would like to see more employment opportunities for autistic adults, more housing and college programs, because, after all, Grace Goad has a gift. She just needs help in presenting it.
"Look what this child in particular can do, who can't carry on a conversation and has intellectual disabilities. She's able to give and express herself, and give the world through this medium," Hammett said.
Grace's art is on display this week at Hot&Cold coffee shop in Hillsboro Village. For more information, visit: http://www.leisahammett.com
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