Running on hope

Running on hope

Running on hope
April 25
21:02 2017

Despite the biting cold, runners wearing fleece jackets and cheerful smiles gathered Saturday at South Lakes Park for the Adventures in Autism 5K.

The event, hosted by the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center, will fund scholarships for families who can’t afford the therapy services offered at the center.

“We wanted to do something that involved community on a variety of levels,” Executive Director Kevin Callahan said. “It’s in April because it’s World Autism Month, so we wanted to do it in conjunction with that. Our goal is to increase awareness and the autism center but we wanted to do something fun for both the families involved and the staff here.”

The 5K was the first of its kind put on by the KFAC and garnered a sizable crowd. Approximately 150 participants signed up for the cause, comprised of fellow friends, families and newly interested supporters.

“We’ve done other autism events in the past, but this is the first of what we hope will be an annual event,” Callahan said. “The first of what will hopefully be many more to come.”

The race not only attracted personal clients, but also participants in the area who came to support those in their community.

“The center they have is such a wonderful thing because they’re raising money for scholarships for these children,” local resident Cheryl Angie said. “I’m a teacher and I know students who have gone there to do training and friends of my daughter have taught there as well.”

Located at 490 S. Interstate 35E, KFAC was established in 2012 and is housed under the UNT College of Education. It is collectively a research, training and direct services center that serves school-aged children with autism.

Clients can receive diagnostic testing and evaluation, full-time and part-time intervention services, applied behavioral analysis and counseling.

“The best part is that we have a community here for these children and there aren’t many therapy centers for children with autism in the area,” KFAC client Katrina Burgos said. “[My child] is a different kid, so it’s been a tremendous help to him.”

Back in the 90s, the idea of KFAC was planted when Callahan envisioned a community-based center that met the needs of any family with autism, regardless of financial status. With the donations of UNT alumna Kristin Farmer,  KFAC was launched to the public with a full staff of dedicated experts.

Callahan says the 5K is just one of their efforts to fundraise for the influx of future families.

“What we’ve had to do is seek funding to offer these low cost services,” Callahan said. “We’ve gotten some grants from the state and we’re really thrilled about that and hope that that continues in the future.”

The need for grants and donations is crucial for families who want to pursue treatment but are confronted with a heavy price.

“We’re an evidence-based practices center so we use whatever the research tells us might be effective for any individual with autism,” Callahan said. “But that’s very intensive. It’s one-on-one treatment so not all parents can afford it or not all parents have the insurance that covers it.”

Families will often face this financial dilemma when seeking programs for their autistic children.

Insurance providers do not always cover the cost of analysis behavioral therapy that is used at KFAC, which can leave parents feeling stranded.

“Those services could be costing your family $60,000 a year and if your insurance policies don’t cover that, you’re almost out of luck,” Event Coordinator Sidney Jamison said. “So we’re making these kind of opportunities available to everybody. It’s not just something that you don’t get if you don’t have an insurance policy that covers it.”

KFAC is not a public or a private school, as they state on their website. Despite serving a wide range of families, the clients and staff are still hoping that their services can be known to the greater Denton community.

“Before I started working for KFAC, I just knew that there was a building on the other side of I-35 but I had no clue what was going on in there,” Jamison said. “But just after spending a couple months with the center, with the people involved and working with the kids, it’s something absolutely worth noticing.”

According to a recent government survey, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Despite the high percentages, Burgos says that it’s still a disorder that goes largely unnoticed at first glance.

Events like the 5K is just one step in creating a greater dialogue within the community.

“The most important part is raising awareness,” Burgos said. “You look at autism and you can’t see their disability so they look the same as any other child. You have to get to know them and get in their world.”

Featured Image: About 150 people gathered Saturday morning at South Lakes Park to participate in the Adventures in Autism 5k hosted by the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center. Sara Carpenter

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Kayleigh Bywater

Kayleigh Bywater

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