Local Gala Supporting Area Children with Autism A Success

28 04 2012

By Hilda Clark Bowen

With 2008 figures recently released by the Centers for Disease Control that autism is occurring now in 1 out of 88 children, and with April being Autism Awareness Month, the 6th Annual Boots and Bling Gala on Saturday, April 14, 2012, spread the message that “we are all in this together.” Hosted by The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center and generously sponsored by Altus and ZT Wealth, Including Kids, Inc., a 501(c) 3 organization, was able to raise approximately $160,000, all of which will go towards supporting Houston-area children with autism and other developmental disabilities realize their full potential through their full-time intensive one-on-one program, multiple inclusion programs, after-school tutoring, free community outreach and developmental programs, free parent training, sibling support groups and so much more.

There was something for every one of the 300 attendees. The classrooms created baskets for silent auction to compete for a paid lunch off campus. Fun games qualified winners for a variety of prizes. Busy bid boards hosted a large array of varied packages.

Busy bid boards

The live auction items included unique trips and dinners, but it was a video message from actor Mario Lopez (click here to see his video to our guests inviting gala attendees to be generous in their bidding to spend a fun day with him during taping of the show “Extra” that met with not only loud enthusiasm, but also a very high bid. State Representative Dan Huberty offered dinner at The Veranda for another high bidder. Pat and Ray’s Studio provided pictures of the children in their boots and bling.

Teacher Courtney Simon and student Patrick Bowen, courtesy of Pat and Ray's Studio

Including Kids could not be successful without the support of its generous sponsors and donors. Emcee for the evening was the wonderful Dean Ryan of Insperity. In attendance were ZT Wealth’s Kraig Killough and his wife, Mary, who brought along Houston Texans Chester Pitts and LaToya Hutchins. Also in attendance were Innovative Solutions, Clint Fowler, and his wife Jamie, Insperity’s Corrin Price and her husband Joe, Clint and Christle Johnson, Mark and Allison Elliott and Including Kids board members. All showed their altruistic support of Including Kids through sponsorships, auction purchases and donations. Enthusiastic volunteers from Best Buy extended a helping hand to ensure everyone had a good time.

(L to R) Clint & Kathy Fowler, Kraig Killough, Jennifer Dantzler, Sounia Sememar

The Woodlands residents: Jean Paul & Wendy Buisine, and Michelle & Gordon Dobson (also Board members of Including Kids)

As Jennifer Dantzler, BCBA, M.S.Ed., Executive Director of Including Kids, addressed the crowd, things turned quite emotional. She thanked not only the people who support the school, but also the parents who entrust their children to her and her staff. A slide-show of accomplishments of the children followed. Guest speaker, Dr. Heather Harnett, shared their family’s journey into the world of autism. Because of Including Kids, her daughter has graduated and is now attending regular kindergarten where she is about to perform a solo singing part in a play. By the end of her speech, there was not a dry eye left in the audience.

Dr. Heather Harnett, keynote speaker

“For every child, time is of the essence,” according to Jennifer Dantzler. “We know the earlier the intervention, the more favorable the outcome. However, we have also seen amazing strides from children as old as 14 years of age who had no previous intensive intervention. We encourage you to check out our website at http://www.includingkids.org to learn more about our programs.”

About Including Kids, Inc.

The mission of Including Kids, Inc. is to provide educational and therapeutic instruction using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis for children with autism and other related disorders endeavoring to facilitate their inclusion in the community and inspire them to become productive citizens.

Additional Photos

The Woodlands businessman, Mike Norat, and his wife, Glicel

The Woodlands residents Jeffrey & Hilda Bowen

Best Buy volunteers helped make the night fun.





The 2011 Bowen Backyard

26 12 2011

The Bowen Backyard 2011

We hope this letter finds you all well and happy. It’s funny how after Halloween things churn into high-gear. This year has been quite eventful for us.

Patrick’s learning accelerated. It is going to be hard for me to share everything so here are the highlights: He now communicates with an IPad. His verbal communication has increased, too, but it is not as predictable. He greets people with “hi.” Recently we’ve heard a phrase that sounds like “go away” which sometimes is appropriate to the situation and sometimes is echolalia. Patrick is now back to playing soccer and by this fall was working well with a teenage buddy. His basketball throw is improving as well; he has gotten the ball in the hoop, too. He is getting better at pressing the right numbers on the microwave after we give him a verbal prompt of what number he needs to press. He attended a concert at Miller Outdoor Theater & passed out flyers about the school afterwards.

How wonderful it is that our community is becoming sensitive to the needs of our kiddos. He’s attended several sensory-friendly movies, like Rio, The Smurfs, etc. He has also had field trips to Chefs-2-B where he created his own pizza. Jeff and I took him to the planetarium and museum. He did not want to sit in a recliner chair, and fortunately, the museum had regular-backed chairs for those differently-abled. He enjoyed the energy exhibit. When we got to the gem/jewelry exhibit, he helped me try to find the exit very quickly–typical male! You can view some Patrick videos on http://www.youtube.com/user/JadeKirra (my Jedi name–no laughing; geeks rule!)

During spring break, he used his IPad independently to say, “Mom, I need help” and then he verbally said, “I need help” right after it. These are always surreal moments to us. He was playing Connect 4 independently with a peer at school, a child who I can say has actually been as close to a friend to Patrick as he has ever had. It’s fun to see him laughing again. He was shown the “ice” button in a Subway store. He kept pushing the ice button and laughing every time ice came out. He reminds us of the beauty of living in the moment. He enjoys using the self check-out areas of the store with the scanner and knows to scan it & put it in the bag. He helps placing items on a conveyor belt from the basket and adores the debit/credit swipe computer, so we got him a gift card that he can use to make his own purchases. In May, he attended his first wedding. We dressed him up in nice pants, a shirt and a tie; he looked so handsome.

Patrick in his first tie, and not a clip-on

He refused to keep his shirt tucked in, and we gave up the struggle. One must pick the battles to be fought.

During the summer, he went sailing for the very first time and enjoyed it. This fall the school has been working on academics and activities that will lead to employment (office work, stacking cans, etc.). He has begun to understand the concept of talking on the phone and is following simple directions given.

Yeah, I really don't like that hat. Get it off.

While things sound all peaches and creams, we do have our trying moments where we really hate autism. As with all parents, we deal with the “teen attitude.” Patrick will be 16 on December 17. Our baby is almost 6 feet tall.

Mom feels like a hobbit here.

The best news for us and for Patrick came in June when I signed the documents. The school district is now paying for Patrick’s private school tuition, the bus drive, and a private agency to do speech therapy with him. He will get OT through a school-provided individual who will go out to the school. WE WON, WE WON, WE WON! Seven long years of battle. When they went to observe him at school, his progress was undeniable. It was done in a simple meeting; no due process; no mediation. The sense I got from that meeting was that this would be permanent for the rest of Patrick’s school career, even though they have to review it year to year. The burden that lifted off our shoulders was immense.

The year has been busy for us as well. I left the science fiction website I was writing for in January and a month later got an extraordinary opportunity to be part of something called Fox VIP, at the recommendation of our local Fox station. I continued to write and promote shows, and now I was getting all these presents. Out of all the things I received, my favorites were a signed “Fringe” script,

The signed Fringe script. Treasured forever.

my “So You Think You Can Dance” shoes,

So You Think You Can Dance Shoes Thanks for FOXVIP

and my “New Girl” Adorkable T-shirt.

My "New Girl" adorkable T-shirt

I also had an opportunity through this association to fly out in May to Los Angeles to the American Idol finale show (airfare, hotel, spending money all covered). Sadly Jeff could not go with me, so my friend Glicel did.

Delays, delays, delays

We met up with my brother-in-law for lunch & dinner with a friend.

Me and my brother in law.

Robert Meyer Burnett, my friend Glicel, and Me at Gordon Ramsey's restaurant in the hotel.

I think I got about 9 hours of sleep during the 3 days involved.

Between Feb and April, I did a lot of work on the school’s Rock Autism benefit.

My semi-rock look. Kids were going to be there so I had to tone it down.

The week after was our Boots and Bling Gala (April 2011) in which 320 people came out to support Patrick’s school at The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center. I was able to help with the event as it approached and afterwards. Being involved with Patrick’s school is deeply gratifying. I would do anything for them. They are the heroes who help hundreds of children.

One half of the people there.

The other side of the room with the dual screens, each for each side.

In October, I went to visit my sister in NC; I had not seen her in at least 5-6 years. Out of all the things we did during the extended weekend, our trip to Cherokee was my favorite. I adore learning about other people’s cultures and history, but most especially their spiritual/religious beliefs.

Oak Grove Inn?

Cherokee, North Carolina

As December beckons, I am in charge of the book fair at InKids and now am the print/promotions chairperson for their Boots & Bling Gala 2012. Being such, I want all my Houston area friends to come. It is so much fun. Save the date: April 14, 2012 at The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center on North Millbend in Grogan’s Mill. In June, I attended my first CD release party of local talent who I became familiar with during my efforts of Rock Autism.

I continue to blog at here, tweet http://twitter.com/pbmom, and you can find me at Facebook here:  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1535065933.   For as many joys and blessings that have come into my life this year, sadness also visited in the span of 2 months with the tragic death of a friend’s son, the expected death of another friend, Joe, and the unexpected death of my friend and neighbor of 15 years, Lenie.

Jeff and I did manage some time away in January of 2011 to Dallas to the Women of Sci-Fi Convention where we got to speak to Alaina Huffman,

Alaina Huffman

Katee Sackhoff, and Tricia Helfer for a considerable length of time.

Katee Sackhoff

Tricia Helfer

In addition to their Q&A sessions, we also got to see Q&A sessions from Nichelle Nichols (of Star Trek), and Yvonne Craig (the original Batgirl).  Erin Gray (Buck Rogers) was also there as was Morena Baccarin (Stargate SG-1, V, Homeland). Jeff thought it was funny that when he would come back from going to the bathroom, I would surrounded by a group of male geeks chatting with me about what I thought about this show or that show, how I felt about the female additions to Human Target that season, and into more heavy anthropological and cultural advances that have expanded the once exclusive male areas of geek to women, like the expanding roles of lead female characters in video games.  The male-geek-to-female-geek ratio was 10:1 if not higher. We also got to meet up with another Twitter friend who flew in from Vancouver, British Columbia, and met some other people through him. I also had breakfast with one of my high school friends from New York. She hasn’t changed much at all in all these years.

ScoobyKoo from Vancouver and Me at Women of SciFi Convention, Plano, Jan 2011

Jeff has been extremely busy at work, taking on new responsibilities as a member of his company’s safety team. Since he works for a utility company, the emphasis on safety is extremely important. Some of his duties include conducting monthly safety meetings, bringing in industry speakers, CPR training, blood drives, managing the group’s website and content, and preparing his business unit for safety audits. In addition, his work has picked up significantly in his department as the company is building new power plants. He often states to his coworkers that there are not enough hours in the day! Jeff continues to exercise and has brought Patrick along on his two-mile walks of our dog, Maddie. We think that this and other physical fitness activities have helped Patrick improve. In his spare time Jeff continues read his books and play his videogames.

We would like to close with a request. If you find yourself wanting to give to a charity on or before Christmas Day, please consider helping Patrick’s school. They are a not-for-profit, so your donation is tax-deductible. In August, Patrick’s program was able to double in expansion. Even though parents do pay tuition, not all costs are covered. One hundred percent of the money stays in the school and at least 85% or more goes directly to the children. We have been honored already by the response of my friends on Facebook and Twitter, and have raised our goal twice now. You can make a donation by going on-line to: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/hildabowen/annual-campaign-2011 We wrote a story on there as well (similar to my Rock Autism speech). If you are leery about using Visa/Mastercard, then you can send them a check directly to (just attach a note that it is in honor of Patrick). Allison Boyd, Donor Services, Including Kids, 5364 FM 1960 East, Humble, Texas 77346 Make it payable to Including Kids Thank you for your consideration in this. Even $5 helps.

May we share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Teach us to be merry with clear hearts. May Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven. Peace & blessings are wished to you and your families always.

Happy Holidays!
Hilda, Jeff & Patrick





Join Team Patrick!

14 11 2011

I knew it was a long time since I’ve posted, but I had no idea it’s been almost 2 months. After Halloween is over, things seem to go into high gear, don’t they? Unexpected illnesses throw the whole schedule off. Tonight I’m starting our annual Christmas letter because I have about 200 cards to send out via regular mail not to mention the ones I send electronically. I just opened the mail I’ve been neglecting for a month. I have no time to even start a game of Skyrim. The Fringe fall finale is this Friday (what????) Its nuts! I was supposed to have attended Wizard World in Austin today for a day trip with my husband to visit Alaina Huffman and Julia Benson of Stargate Universe, but the flu decided to pay us a visit on Monday night to Tuesday morning and then Patrick proceeded to get sick. I haven’t read Joe Mallozzi’s blog in over a week, something I make sure to attend to every day. I also need to work, help Patrick’s school, and put up at least a Christmas tree.

I did accomplish quite a bit today considering I’ve been out of it for about a week. One of those items includes a fundraiser campaign for my son’s not-for-profit autism school, Including Kids. I know that budgets are tight and dollars are precious, but autism waits for no one. I would like to invite you to read our story, about this wonderful school and the difference you can make with even a small donation (even $5.00 helps).

My family thanks you for the support you have always shown us. I don’t know how we would have gotten this far without the financial, emotional and spiritual support of friends, family and even strangers.  If you feel like you might be able to contribute to this wonderful school, please follow this link:

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/hildabowen/annual-campaign-2011

Thanks for joining Team Patrick. Although I set the goal at the level that was requested by the school of each of the parents, I would truly like to exceed the amount. The amount is tax-deductible.

Blessings to all.

 

 





What Including Kids Has Done for My Son

13 03 2011

This is a copy of a testimonial I wrote in December 2010 for Including Kids, Inc. for them to use in their fundraising efforts. There are several fundraisers coming up for them including “Rock Autism” and their Boots & Bling Gala. For those considering attendance at either, I want to share our journey and how special this place is.

Patrick was diagnosed in 1997 at 18 months of age, when autism was occurring in 1 in 10,000 children. From Jan 1999-May 2004, our school district did a great job educating him, even introducing applied behavior analysis (ABA) to him in 2001 at which time he made significant achievement in growth and learning. A decision by one administrator in May of 2004 changed all that. By 2006, Patrick lost, by their testing, 81% of all the skills he ever learned. For the first time ever, Patrick started having serious behavior issues. Once all his skills to communicate were gone, he had no other way but to express communication other than in self-injurious behaviors. All the money and time that we had invested in Patrick privately to pay for speech therapy, a home program, and training for the school staff became a significant loss. But these losses would never match the grief of seeing our child go from a happy, loving, gentle soul to a child angry, frustrated, and hurting himself so badly that it looked like he had been abused. The stress of fighting with the school district to have them provide, at minimum, what the law says they should, had taken a significant toll on our family life and health. When the incompetence hit an all-time low and unethical behavior reared its ugly head, the only choice to protect him was to withdraw him. We knew when we offered to pay for proper training and oversight for his program and they declined, it was more about their infighting with us than it was about Patrick.

We called Including Kids, Inc. to see if they could help provide in-home consultation for our potential homeschooling when we learned about their new program, SOAR Academy. When we met with staff and were asked if we thought Patrick was a good fit for the program, we honestly did not know. Autism had taken a huge financial toll already, so we did not know how we were going to pay for this. However, somewhere in our souls, we knew this was the right choice. We took a step off a cliff not knowing if there was going to be a safety net to catch us on our fall. All we had was our faith that somehow everything would be okay.

Phrases we often heard were “given his intellectual deficits, how much do you think he can learn?” “Don’t you think 10 signs in 1 school year might be too much for him to learn?” In the first 9 days at InKids, he was already signing 3 to 4-word sentences and had learned 3 new signs. Every day I took the long drive home, I cried tears of joy because he was finally with people who saw his limitless potential. The sheer number of accomplishments from his August to December 2010 tenure at InKids would fill several pages. After one month, he tolerated his first rock concert, just one of the many firsts. He cares about things now and wants to make choices. He is shaking his head yes and no in response to questions appropriately. Clothes are being put on with just supervision. Two events stand out in my memory during this time period. A chip went down his throat the wrong way and his eyes started to water. I asked him, “What’s wrong?” He signed, “Help me” and then put his hands around his neck. It has been one of our greatest fears that Patrick’s life span would be cut short because he could not tell anybody what was hurting him. In 11 years, neither we nor the school district could teach him this concept. Yet, here in this magical place, they did it in 4 short months. Another beautiful moment occurred when I was sitting on the bed. I asked him to sit next to me. He did, then turned to me, tapped his fingers on my chest and said (verbally), “Mom.” A single-word symphony I will forever cherish. New talents have emerged such as planting things and cooking.

Patrick has moved from the darkness into the light again. He shows pride in his accomplishments. His sense of humor has returned with a vengeance. We often get notes home that tell us he just would not stop laughing all day long.

It is now obvious to us that since the school district did not believe he was capable of anything, he had no reason to prove anything otherwise to anyone. Even our efforts in our home program were failing because Patrick had no self-esteem. It was one more thing that was taken from him because of that one decision by one individual to close the district’s successful autism program. Now we see the smiling, happy child that he was prior to August of 2004 again. The stress in our home life has been greatly reduced which no doubt has benefitted Patrick as well.

In August of 2010, we were not sure at all if SOAR Academy was the right fit for Patrick. Now, we cannot imagine our son being anywhere else. We are Including Kids Lifers. Each and every one of these people at Including Kids embody what it means to be a true teacher, not merely an educator. Their dedication to the children and to their families does not stop at the classroom. Because the approach is so intensive, this kind of support for children with autism is costly. There are children on a waiting list who desperately need this school’s assistance. Please help Including Kids, Inc. continue to operate and grow so they can create a pathway for as many children as possible towards a life of not only working and personal independence, but also a life full of the same love and happiness and pleasures that you enjoy. On behalf of our family, we thank you for your consideration.



 

Patrick

My life teacher, Patrick.