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September 2023 Newsletter

Our September newsletter is out! Some newsletter highlights:

Spark Learning‘s Putt Fore Autism is 11/03-11/04 at Peter Pan Mini-Golf!
Hunter Hinze Fund Application for Autistic Adults Closes 09/18 at noon!
Big Thicket Sensory Sunday Nature Walk is 09/17 at Big Thicket Nature Preserve
Bike to the Beach is 10/14 Biking Houston to Galveston!

Read the AST newsletter now📰

Stay informed on what’s happening at AST by subscribing to our newsletter.


#Newsletter #Autism #TheConnectionIsYou

Connections Created!: August 2023 Recap

Check out some highlights from August! 

We had such a warm welcome from the staff at Texana Cafe for our AST Meet & Greet event! Thank you so much to Rany Thommen as well as the entire Texana staff for hosting us as well as providing delicious food and drinks! It was great getting to meet with parents and providers as well as learn more about Texana Cafe’s work in supporting meaningful employment for neurodiverse individuals.

We had a great time at Empower House‘s Back-to-School Fair, connecting with families and providing resources as well as sensory toolkits for kiddos getting their back-to-school immunizations. Thank you to our behavior support therapists who assisted families during the event, as well as our awesome volunteers and staff who helped out at our resource table!
We also presented on Autistic Burnout & Masking at A Look Ahead Conference in Arlington, TX. Thank you so much to our staff and volunteers for presenting and taking part in the resource fair.
Our Hunter Hinze Fund 2023 application opened. HHF provides funding for services and supports that promote autonomy, skill development, and self-sufficiency.  Learn more about the Hunter Hinze Fund here. 
Board Member Spotlight: Dr. Jennifer Hamrick

Jennifer Hamrick, PhD, BCBA, LBA is the Director of the Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research and an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University. Dr. Hamrick joined our board in 2022 and quickly hit the ground running, providing support to AST staff and individuals in the Autism community. Jennifer is the Team Captain of AST’s Bike to the Beach Team, whose members will be riding in the 100, 50, or 25 mile rides during the Bike to the Beach event on October 14th between Houston and Galveston; “I’m very excited to be part of the AST Bike to the Beach team this year and hope that we have a great group to support our cause that also helps us fundraise in order to continue to provide the much needed support Texas families need!” You can join or donate to the AST Bike to the Beach Team here!

Read our interview with Jennifer below!

What is your connection to Autism? 

Prior to joining Texas Tech University, I was a public educator for 18 years. I can still remember, as a new teacher, the first student I had who had a diagnosis of autism and my team and I not truly understanding his needs without substantial support and training from some outside resources. All these years later, as a researcher at a Texas university, I still meet new teachers who report not knowing or understanding how to work with their students and desperately needing help. We still have so much to learn from and about our students to best serve their needs and I hope that in my current role, I can have a positive impact on both teachers and individuals with AST to help them be as independent & successful as they possibly can be in life.

How did you become involved with AST? 

As an educator, AST has always been an organization I have shared with families who are looking for resources and needing help navigating services in Texas. When asked to be part of the board, I jumped on the chance to more involved and to better understand how we can help. I have a much better understanding of AST now and am so happy to be part of a great group whose mission is to, “empower everyone in the Autism community with the resources needed to live fully.”

Why is being a part of the AST Board important to you? 

I love seeing the impact AST has across the entire state of Texas! Our Director of Statewide Education and Research, Adriana Crostley, reaches out to me often to help families in the West Texas region connect with resources that may benefit their individual needs. I have also met many parents of children through AST and have heard of continued struggles so many are still dealing with in navigating multiple systems when trying to help their kids. We still have so much work to do and I’m proud to be part of an organization dedicated to help

August 2023 Newsletter


Did you catch our August newsletter? Some newsletter highlights: 

• AST Pool Party at Volente Beach is Sept 9th!
• Hunter Hinze Fund Application Opens Friday, Aug 18th at NOON!
• Support Group Spotlight: Autism Girls Group
• Bike for AST at Bike to the Beach on Oct 14th in Houston!

Read the AST newsletter now 📰…/august2023-astnewsletter

Stay informed on what’s happening at AST by subscribing to our newsletter:

#Newsletter #Autism #TheConnectionIsYou

Connections Created!: July 2023 Recap

Jacquie, Monica, and Joe stand in front of a slideshow presentation about Autistic burnout.

Check out some highlights from July! 

We had a great time presenting at the Texas Parent to Parent conference as well as meeting parents and self-advocates from across the state! OurDirector of Statewide Education & Outreach, Adriana, did a fantastic job presenting Autism 101 in Spanish. Thank you so much to our Autistic Adult Advisory panelists, Joe and Monica, for joining us to present on the important topic of Autistic burnout.  Also thank you to our volunteer, Tania, and her daughter for helping out at our resource table.

We also held our free AUTonomy discussion, “Autistic Burnout: Prevention & Recovery”,  with Monica Diaz, Joe Carr, & Jacquie Benestante where we had a great discussion on what Autistic burnout looks like as well as helpful strategies and tips to prevent it as well as tips for people currently experiencing it.

We took part in Billingsley’s sensory sensitive Fourth of July laser light show celebration in Dallas. Thank you so much to our board member, Cescilly Smith-Jenkins M.Th.,D.D.
, for connecting with attendees alongside her son!

Our Austin girls
group had a great time learning mindful weaving with Alyssa.

Our July highlight was feedback we received from an AUTonomy Discussion attendee; “Seeing and hearing y’all gives me high hopes for my son[…] Thank y’all. Y’all are awesome!”

July 2023 Newsletter

Our July Newsletter is out! Some highlights include:

  • AUTonomy Discussion “Autistic Burnout & Masking” on Facebook Live
  • Autism Girls groups now in Austin, Dallas, Houston, & San Antonio

  • Last chance to register for Camp Kayak!

  • AST Presenting at TXP2P Conference

Read our July newsletter here!

Connections Created!: June 2023 Recap

Check out some highlights from June!

We are extremely grateful to Emerson for continuing to support AST through a $5,000 grant in support of our Spanish programs.

We held our free Seminars Across the Spectrum presentation, “Sensory Friendly Healthcare” on Facebook Live with Dr. Mayra Corona presenting. View it now on Youtube! 

The Jack Stephens Scholarship Fund application closed, and we received 65 applications for services and supports for Autistic children in the greater Houston area. We have our hands full reviewing applications and will be notifying recipients later this summer!

We had lots of great group updates this month! Our Autism Dads Social Club held their 2nd Annual Family Picnic in Houston! Our Austin Autism Girls Group learned self-regulation strategies through breathing and meditation taught by yoga instructor, Amy Pancake, who kindly donated her time. Our Autistic Adult Group discussed travel, vacations, and making summer plans!

Our June highlight was feedback we received from a Connections Group attendee; “Thank you so much for everything you do! You are making such a big difference in my life!”

Preparing For 4th of July Fun!

The 4th of July holiday usually includes a bunch of fun, exciting activities for individuals and families to enjoy but these activities can often be overstimulating for people on the spectrum. Check out these tips to help set you and your family up for success this 4th of July!

  •  Plan the activity that is right for you! Consider what you think you, your child or teen can handle & pick your activity accordingly. Take into consideration bedtime, crowds, loud noises, and think about what your options are. A family picnic or neighborhood parade might be more enjoyable than fireworks. Also consider watching fireworks from a distance if you or your child is noise-sensitive!
  • Prepare for the activity to set everyone up for success! Whether it’s a parade or fireworks (or both!), discuss it before hand. Make a simple story about the activity that explains the who/what/when/where of your activity, and how that will impact the child or teen and what they can do in the situation. The story should have simple descriptions and pictures. Include any fun parts of the day as well as potential scary things and then what the individual can do if they feel scared or overwhelmed. How can they take a break? Do they know how to communicate that? You can google pictures from past events if it’s an annual activity like a local fireworks display or a parade. If there’s any videos from past years, show the video too!
  • Have an escape route & pick your location wisely!  If you’re doing something that has the potential to be overwhelming, discuss in advance with other adults attending how you’re going to leave the situation if things don’t go well. Decide on a clear exit strategy as well as what each adult’s role is during the event. Also consider where you will be located during the event as you may also want to sit somewhere that is easy to exit from or that has a lot of room to move around.
  • Bring items to help with sensory issues. Noise reducing or noise canceling headphones can be a life-saver. Try them at home first and make sure you or your loved one knows they can wear them if needed. Older children, teens and adults may be fine wearing ear plugs. Include this in your story! If light-sensitivity is an issue, offer sunglasses.
  • Bring electronic devices, toys & snacks! Bring things to do and warn about the wait if there will be one! Bring snacks, fidget or sensory toys, and activities to do while waiting. Include this in your story! Make sure electronic devices are charged and if your child uses one for communication, practice how they will let you know if they need a break or need to leave.
  • Discuss safety concerns & take precautions. Discuss potential safety concerns with the other adults attending and make a plan. For example if this activity is near a body of water, you may want to pick a location during the event that is farthest from the body of water as well as go over water safety tips with your family before the event.
June 2023 Newsletter

Our June Newsletter is out! Some highlights include:

  • SATS Presentation “Sensory Friendly Healthcare” on Facebook Live
  • Jack Stephens Scholarship Fund Closes June 19th!

  • Swim Safe resources

  • AST Presenting at TXP2P Conference

Read more of our June newsletter here! 

Connections Created!: May 2023 Recap

We were very active this May, connecting with members of the community at events across the state!

On May 6th, we had a great time at the Art for Autism event in San Antonio alongside Autism Treatment Center and Mindcolor Autism, supporting Autistic artists in showcasing and selling their work. Special thanks to artist Jennifer Warren for donating her proceeds from the event to AST.

The Jack Stephens Scholarship Fund opened on May 19th, which serves Houston area families and caregivers of Autistic youth ages 2-17, by providing needed scholarships for items, services, and supports that promote skill development, education, safety, and the arts. 

On May 22 we were a part of the Slaughter Associates Golf For Charity Classic where attendees raised $15K for Autism Society of Texas! Richard P. Slaughter Associates has raised a total of $625K for area nonprofits with their Golf For Charity Classic over the years, and we are so grateful for the positive impact they make on AST and the local community.

Then on May 24th we partnered with Trulieve to provide a free education event on “Autism as a Qualifying Condition for Low-THC Cannabis in Texas”, which focused on explaining the benefits of medical cannabis for those on the Spectrum, as well as how to obtain a prescription.

Our team worked hard during the last month of the Texas Legislative session to educate legislators about the negative impact that vouchers have on students with disabilities, and also worked to protect the rights of adults with disabilities regarding their placement in long term residential facilities. We also advocated for increased budgets for waiver waitlists, attendant care wage increase (which moved up to $10.60/hour from $8.11), increased funding for the Children’s Autism Program and more.

We will continue our efforts by working with state agencies on these important issues in cases where legislation didn’t pass. We appreciate everyone’s efforts in improving outcomes for people with Autism! To get a full update on our advocacy efforts and what we’ll be doing during the Interim and via Federal Advocacy, please subscribe to our Advocacy email list here.