Lending a 'helping hand' to adults with autism

Couple comes up with a solution for growing need to help children with autism who grow to be adults with autism.

Video Transcript

- Well, the pandemic, of course, has been hard on everyone, but especially on people with special needs. One couple decided to lend a helping hand to adults with autism. Our Phillip Palmer shows us their solution to moving forward.

PHILLIP PALMER: A recent study by the CDC found one in every 54 children had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder by eight. Not regularly identified until the '70s, there's a growing need to learn the best way forward for children with autism who grow to be adults with autism.

JENNIFER OGLESBY: I probably have cried multiple times with friends that have children with special needs, because you always think about the future, and where do they go.

PHILLIP PALMER: Jennifer and Barry Oglesby created Helping Hand of America in 2017 as a way to provide a supported living option for young adults like their son who have autism. At this home in Pomona and another in Covina, Helping Hand provides 24-hour care for adults with autism, but also works to teach self care in a home and a neighborhood they would want for their own son.

BARRY OGLESBY: Our job is to basically nurture those individuals out of here. We have individuals that are as young as 18 in the home, and our job is to basically nurture as you grow them up, so they can be fully independent. And that's what we do every day, and we take it very seriously.

PHILLIP PALMER: Social impairments tend to persist into adulthood for kids with autism. And when the pandemic hit, programs for building those skills were shut down, leaving many further isolated.

- Open it.

PHILLIP PALMER: That's when Jennifer created the social skills box, which includes monthly activities to share online. This month was art supplies and an art project to be created in a group setting.

- Show us the masterpiece. All right, there you go.

DR. NICOLE ARKADIE: You can see in her face, she was just really concentrating and trying to make sure she got the lines just right. And so to be able to share it, and then to see other people as they were actually doing the activity, it really helped her to build up, not only her confidence level but just feeling like she's connecting with someone else, and she's not just by herself.

JENNIFER OGLESBY: We want to create a center. And in that center, we want to have the social skills box kind of come to life. So instead of just meeting online, now, you could come to this facility, where we can paint, we can do projects.

PHILLIP PALMER: The online option will remain as the pandemic ends in an attempt to help their clients connect regardless of where they live. But there are also plans to open another home this year and another two homes next year.

BARRY OGLESBY: Every home will be open is going to have the same blueprint, it's going to have that home feel, it's going to have friendly staff, is going to cater to their needs, it's going to be cater to their-- basic care to that individual. And so that's how it's going to be going forward.

PHILLIP PALMER: Phillip Palmer, ABC7, Eyewitness News.