Children's Autism Center offers hope

Opportunity Village provides hope for families overwhelmed by the challenges of raising a child on the Autism Spectrum.

With a $26,000 grant from United Way of North Central Iowa, the Opportunity Village Children's Autism Center (OVCAC) began in August 2013 with a support group for parents and caregivers called Family 2 Family Connect.

Since then, additional support groups, educational opportunities, family activities, and resources have expanded the Children's Autism Center's outreach.

"It is our hope that if we can combine support programs, education, navigation of existing area services, training for children in their home and community, and training of children in the clinic, that would make us very unique," said Village Services Director Jim Aberg.

Christina Maulsby, who has two young sons with autism, has been hired as project coordinator for the OVCAC.

"We want to improve the quality of services to children with autism whom we presently serve and also children in the future," said Aberg.

Families also need help navigating the "broad and sometimes complicated system" of assistance for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). "We want to establish a stronger working relationship with the network of providers in the area who offer some aspects of services (for instance, speech, psychiatric, social services, education resources, etc.)," Aberg said.

The Village also is sorting out the funding streams that could make these various paths come together into a map for families.

The Children's Autism Center will provide assessment, positive behavior supports, and skill building activities to improve the lives of children with autism. The backbone of our approach will be the best practices based on current studies.

An Advisory Council has been created for the OVCAC. The role of this group of volunteers will be to advise the Village on the OVCAC activities, make suggestions, and review whether we are meeting the needs of the community. This group will meet at least four times a year.

With the help of the Cerro Gordo County Medical Alliance, a resource library is taking shape at the OVCAC. Books, DVDs, technology, used equipment, and toys are available for families to check out through the center.

Click here to find out more about OVCAC support groups, events, and activities.

For information about the Children's Autism Center, contact Christina Maulsby, project coordinator, at 641-355-1216.

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