POMONA, Calif. (KABC) -- The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but especially on those with special needs. So one couple decided to lend a "helping hand" to adults with autism.
A recent study by the CDC found one in every 54 children had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder by age 8. Not regularly identified until the 1970s, there's a growing need to learn the best way forward for children with autism who grow to be adults with autism.
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.
"I probably have cried multiple times and with friends that have, you know, children with special needs, because you always think about the future and where do they go, you know, where do they go from here," said Jennifer.
At one 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.
"Our job is to basically nurture and you know, actually grow them up so they can be fully independent. And that's, you know, and that's what we do every day. And we take it very seriously," said Barry.
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. 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.
"We want to create a center. And in that center, we want to have the social skills blocks kind of come to life," said Jennifer. "So instead of just meeting online, now you can come to this facility where we can pay, we can do projects."
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 next year.
"Every home that we open is going to have the same blueprint is going to have that home feel, it's going to have friendly staff is going to be catered to their needs, you know, basic care to that individual," said Barry. "And, and so that's how it's going to be going forward."
For more information, visit www.helpinghandoa.org.