Holiday Giving: Horace Mann Educationnal Associates

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to eleven nonprofits in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During the month of December, each team member will be blogging about his or her chosen nonprofit. For his gift, Kevin chose Horace Mann Educational Associates.

I am proud to volunteer for and support HMEA, a nonprofit agency serving nearly 4,000 people with Autism and developmental disabilities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According the Centers for Disease Control, incidence of autism has been rising over the past 20 years and is now estimated to be 1 in 68 children. It is conservatively estimated that 75,000 people are diagnosed with autism in Massachusetts alone.

The cost of providing care for a person with autism in the U.S. is an estimated $1.4 million over their lifetime, according to a study funded by advocacy group Autism Speaks. For those with autism who are impacted with intellectual disabilities (with an IQ of 70 or less) — nearly half of the autistic population — the cost jumps to $2.3 million. On average autism costs a family $60,000 a year. Nationally, expenditure on autism treatment is estimated at 160 billion dollars and is expected to increase five-fold to 800 billion by 2030.

A recent report from the Massachusetts Autism Commission determined that tremendous gaps in services and supports exist and that there is a critical need to develop a comprehensive approach that will respond to the needs of this burgeoning autism population.

Fortunately, HMEA is working to close some of these gaps. They provide an Autism Resource Center for families, a school for students ages 9 to 22, assistive technology services,  home-based childrens’ services,  day programs where adults with developmental disabilities can learn work/life skills and receive job training and employment, residential and shared livingprograms, and so much more.

Earlier this year, HMEA held an autism summit that convened local, regional and state leaders to discuss the impact of autism on communities in Massachusetts. HMEA is also developing a new model program called, Students for Higher – Rising up for Autism, to train college students as behavioral therapists and respite providers for children with autism.

Despite the multiple funding sources available to Massachusetts families today, there is a critical shortage of skilled therapy and respite workers needed to meet the care needs of children and families with autism. As a result, many families are on a six-month waiting list for in-home services. The goal of the Students for Higher program is to significantly reduce the number of families of children (and adults) with autism who are desperately waiting for in-home therapy services and respite in Central Massachusetts.

To learn more about HMEA and the many valuable services and supports they provide to people with autism and developmental disabilities, visit www.hmea.org.