Family Ignites Autism After 21 Day Recognition in Hutto, Texas
25 year old Samuel has unique interests and abilities. “He has a great memory. He can “mash-up” songs that go together. He loves Walmarts, America’s Funniest Home Videos, used lottery tickets, trains, and toilets,” shares Samuel’s father, Mark. However, like many autistic adults and their families, they face challenges. “We are worried about what will happen with him when we are no longer able to care for him. Most of the parents of autistic adults that we know worry as well . . . There are few housing and employment options for autistic adults,” says Mark.
Back in 2020, the Lyons family started Sammy’s Socks, an online business. They wanted a funding stream for Samuel’s future and to give him a job opportunity. He helps with choosing inventory, processing orders, and mailing. However, they haven’t seen enough business to help ease their concerns.
Mark has also seen a long road with advocacy. “I have spoken about the need for supportive housing for autistic adults during the public comments section of Hutto’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Diversity and Inclusion Commission. I have done the same for Georgetown’s (a neighboring city to Hutto) City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission. I spoke to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs – Housing and Health Services Coordination Council in Austin about the need for supportive housing for autistic adults . . . I’ve written letters to my Texas State senator and representative and the US representative and senators. They send back canned replies,” recounts Mark.
After a year of emailing the Hutto Mayor’s office, however, Mark finally received a positive response. “I thought I had set up a meeting with him, [Mayor] Mike Snyder, in early June of this year to talk about having Hutto proclaim April 21 as Autism After 21 Day. When we met, it was for us to receive the proclamation and have a picture taken with the mayor,” shares Mark. Samuel thinks the proclamation is “cool.”
The Lyons follow in the footsteps of Madison House Autism Foundation and Founder JaLynn Prince. They worked with Montgomery County Council in Maryland to have April 21st recognized as Autism After 21 Day for the county in 2017. “From the onset, we had hoped that Autism After 21 Day would catch on across the country, providing a day where autism after the age of 21 would recognize and showcase the successes and challenges of being an autistic adult,” shares Prince. “For a long time, the image of autism in media was children in a classroom. We wanted the acknowledgement that children with autism grow up to be adults with autism so the idea of Autism After 21 Day was born. We recognize April 21st as Autism After 21 Day during April, Autism Acceptance Month.”
Not only did the mayor of Hutto create the Autism After 21 Day proclamation, but he told the Lyons that he would like to meet with them in the future. He wants to discuss further inclusion steps the city can take. While Mark waits for the meeting, he is staying active. “I am in the process of trying to make presentations about the need for supportive housing for autistic adults and the need to revise the employment practices of businesses,” says Mark.
Mark and his family are a great example of how advocacy can be effective in creating change. Anyone can advocate for greater inclusion of autistic adults in their own communities. Madison House Autism Foundation makes this process easy by providing a template. You can follow our step-by-step guide below:
STEP 1: Identify what elected official of the community you live in, who represents you, and with whom you would like to make the request, through the Government Contact Website. This could be your County Council or Trustees of a Town.
STEP 2: Customize our template letter and proclamation template to reach out to the elected official you have chosen. Feel free to edit it to tell your story or simply fill in the blanks and copy & paste the text.
STEP 3: Send the letter via email and attachment preferably, or contact form.
STEP 4: Let us know who you sent it to so we can add you to our growing list of Autism After 21 Day advocates.
STEP 5: Follow up with the contacted officials in 3 days to see if they have received your request and ask for a response.
Thank you for your passion and hard work in getting Autism After 21 Day declared in your community. Working together, a better future is possible!
Looking for other ways to recognize Autism After 21 Day? Learn more about how you can show your support here.