Laredo mother emphasizes the need for residential facility for adults with severe autism
LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - A Laredo mother is fighting for the future of her two young adult children who are navigating life with severe autism.
As Victoria “Vicky” Gonzalez and her children grow older, so does the concern about what will happen to them once she and her husband pass away.
Vicky reached out to the ‘KGNS On Your Side’ team to inquire about the establishment of a residential facility, where people with severe autism can live an independent lifestyle, in the Laredo/Webb County community.
“This makes it hard really, to enjoy life” Vicky said. “Thinking what’s going to happen to them, and also we want to be able to live in peace and die in peace,” she added.
This fear is something Vicky harbors every day because her two kids depend heavily on her and her husband.
Vicky’s son, Mario, 20, and daughter, Isabella, 16, are both on the autism disorder spectrum and struggle with verbal communication.
According to autismspeaks.org, an estimated 25% to 30% of people with autism are diagnosed as nonverbal or minimally verbal, which is what Mario and Isabel have.
“In the case of my son,” Vicky said. “He cannot say any words he just will grunt, he will use some signs he learned through therapy. He uses a communication device, but, of course, someone needs to be there to charge it for him, so that’s why they cannot live alone. They need a caretaker, they need a place.”
There are nonprofits and businesses in Laredo and Webb County that provide home health care services, but Vicky said she’s interested in having a facility that could be a long-term residential home for adults with severe autism that has enough space for activities that’ll meet their sensory needs.
Aside from worrying about where her kids will end up, Vicky also questions if they’ll stay together and if the family will visit them.
That’s why she hopes to keep them together in their hometown of Laredo, which has their family all around.
“Because the ones that don’t get any visitations are usually the ones that get neglected, abused, I mean, it’s very difficult when they cannot speak to express anything, so if they’re here locally people can drop in here or there, occasionally,” Vicky said.
While it’s a dream to build a center like this, making it a reality is a challenge.
KGNS reached out to some of the top elected officials in the Laredo/Webb County area, and asked, “What would go into a project like this?”
Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina said building facilities like these from the ground up is a challenge but possible.
“I think it’s a great idea but it will be very, very difficult,” Judge Tijerina said. “Not to say that it can’t happen,” he added.
City of Laredo Mayor Dr. Victor Trevino said more funds need to be dedicated to our medically underserved community.
“It takes funding agencies, first of all,” Mayor Trevino said. “We also need to have health agencies. We need to get all the areas involved to make a facility like this,” he added.
Lastly, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, who is co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus, said the federal government can provide grants to a project like this.
“I can come up with some money that can help either for a construction,” Rep. Cuellar said. “The community needs to tell me this – is where we need to put this earmark,” he added.
It’ll likely take a partnership with a for-profit or not-for-profit organization to get a facility like this created.
All leaders are in favor of this and agree that more public input and interest will be needed to push the needle on this idea.
Recently, Cuellar awarded the City of Laredo Health Department over $2M for the study of autism in our community.
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