|Heart of Texas Autism Network
|The Heart of Texas Autism Network, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation based in Waco Texas, aids children and
adults affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), their families and the community in the Heart of Central Texas
area. We work to develop and improve resources to help people with ASD live, work and participate as fully and
independently as possible in our society. We have no dues or membership fees. Activities and programs are
provided for free or as low cost as possible.
Examples of what Heart of Texas Autism Network helps provide for parents, professionals and the community
Advocacy training for parents – Free workshops for parents to help them learn to advocate successfully for their
children receiving special education services in the public school system. Workshops in 2011 and 2012 were held in
partnership with David Beinke, Director of Advocacy Services for Cirkiel & Associates Law Firm, as well as Waco
advocates Torey Lewis, and Stephanie McRae.
Other parent training workshops in 2012 included free workshops scheduled with Fran Templeton, CEO of
Spectrum Autism Training.
The Annual Mardi Gras Celebration of Art , begun in 2011, is a regionwide art competition for student artists of
ALL ages and abilities, to raise awareness, inspire a creative outlet in all students including and especially those
with life challenges, and show the power of the arts to connect us all, beyond the limits of language.
Art experiences for kids/youth on the autism spectrum: Weekly art sessions stimulate expression and creativity
(led by professional art teacher).
“Autism Santa” event at Richland Mall: Families bring their children with autism to see Santa two hours before
the Mall opens one Sunday, so children can visit with Santa in a quieter, less overwhelming environment.
Free Drama workshops for parents and young children were held in early 2012 to encourage emotional bonding
and strengthen foundational skills (led by behavior therapist/drama teacher).
Free Gardening activities for kids/youth on the autism spectrum: Participants interact with each other and with
Nature. They experience the therapeutic properties of nurturing living plants, take part in caring for Waco’s WE
CARE Community Garden and donate their harvest to Caritas, our local food bank (led by Texas Master
Free First Responder/Law enforcement autism training for area law enforcement and the community. In May
2011, nationally-known autism safety and risk management expert Dennis Debbaudt conducted training for first
responders and the community. The Heart of Texas Autism Network worked in partnership with Autism Society of
America’s Austin Chapter and Region 12 ESC to provide this free opportunity. Officers earned TCLOSE credits and
jurisdictions from throughout the region sent personnel to obtain training.
The Waco Police Department has since implemented the Take Me Home program, a free 911 registry for persons
with special needs (including autism) in McLennan County who would have difficulty communicating with a first
responder in an emergency situation.
HOTAN members continue to speak with first responder groups as part of our ongoing outreach.
Free Life Planning for Special Needs – In early 2012, a free workshop was led by Waco attorney Elisa Rainey
(Rainey and Rainey) and Keith Reed (financial planner with New York Life) to advise families on planning for the
future for individuals with special needs.
Monthly meetings with speakers on topics relevant to autism, with free childcare. Past speakers have included:
directors of area agencies, university professors, executive directors of area nonprofits, professional therapists,
advocates, and more. Free childcare is provided, in partnership with Baylor's Department of Psychology and
Monthly Supper Clubs for kids/youth: Groups of our kids, youth and young adults meet at local restaurants or
other locations; in addition to having fun, they also learn independent life skills and socialization skills (facilitated
by special-education teacher and skilled volunteers).
Networking and referral to resources, information and services: The Heart of Texas Autism Network partners
with other nonprofits and disability groups to provide information, resources and assistance for events,
conferences, and activities .. examples of collaborators include:
Speaking to organizations, etc: HOTAN members speak with groups of employers, agencies, educators, churches,
civic organizations and others about autism to raise awareness and understanding.
It has been a year of growth for our organization, and the future looks bright! We have talented and dedicated
families and individuals who are passionate about improving the quality of life for people living with autism. We
have members in the community who see the value of our contributions to society and want to help further our
Most importantly, we have -- we are -- families and individuals who live with ASD. Some of us have just begun
the journey, and need a companion and guide as we find our path. Some of us are nearing the end of our own
walks, and need assurance that our loved ones will continue on safely and in good company. We are here to help
each other, to find hope and build a better future -- for ourselves, our children, and the wider community.
We look forward to seeing the hopes and dreams of today become tomorrow’s reality.
Join with us, and help make those dreams come true!
|The Heart of Texas Autism Network's annual Waco Walk for Autism,
in partnership with Baylor School of Educational Psychology and the
Baylor Autism Resource Center, raises awareness and funds to help