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Demonic? No, “Give Autism A Chance” in Austin.


By Dan E. Burns

Facebook rumors circulated that the café was “demonic,” but that didn’t stop an overflow crowd from enjoying “Give Autism A Chance” at family-friendly Spider House in the keep-it-weird city of Austin, Texas. Our teens fit right in at this funky eclectic coffee house. The goal was to demonstrate that young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders can contribute to the workforce and give back to society. And in this laid-back campus refuge, they did.  Patrons only joked with him when my son, Ben, swiped a finger through the whipped cream on somebody’s waffle cake.

How did it go? Lainey Melnick writes, “Thank you all for a delightful event. My son, Daniel Freeman, had a wonderful time and is really hoping it leads to some new opportunities.” And maybe now he’ll get them. Jennifer Kaut, Autism Employment Specialist with Texas Rehabilitative Services (DARS), was there to give Ben and other job-seeking young adults a second look. “As an ASD mom,” she said, “my goal is to revolutionize the transition to jobs statewide.”

Here’s how Leslie Phillips, Houston Chronicle blogger, ASD mom, and Canary Party supporter experienced the event: It was a brilliant weekend in Austin for the US launch of Give Autism a Chance. Two hard-working dedicated teens pulled off the event with help from some parent advocates, capable young adults with autism, and visitors from UK including Autism Trust founder Polly Tommey. Dan Burns, board chair of Autism Trust USA, was also on hand with his wife Sue, and adult son Ben.  (Read more at Leslie's Chron blog.)

Here’s video of Ben clearing tables:

Here’s local video news coverage coverage of “Give Autism a Chance.” (Note the video is on FB and might not be accessible to all readers.)

The surprise for me was how much we enjoyed our kids.  In a restaurant.  The surprise for Ben’s mom: “I was astonished at how much he could do.”

Dan E. Burns, Ph.D., is Adult Issues Liaison for AutismOne and the author of Saving Ben: A Father's Story of Autism. Burns is developing the Autism Trust USA, modeled on The Autism Trust (U.K.) and focused on the creation of new campus communities where adults with autism can work, live and improve their skills and talents in a creative and supportive environment.


Michelle Heath

What a fantastic idea! It would only be better if a town here in Southern Indian would try it. But that's like pulling hens teeth around here. AS my ASD 16-year-old gets older, I wonder about him ever getting a job or just getting the skills to have one. Since he's homeschooled, it's hard to get him those skills when you're practically alone in working with someone who has Autism. Everyone else in the town who had an ASD child moved to get better services. We can't. Can't afford it.

Corina & Mando Hinojos

Dan: It was nice to have met you, Sue and Ben. We were there in the beginning with Mykel-Paul, so we had a chance to meet some of the kids coming in. Mykel-Paul had a good time too! Clearing out the tables, setting them up. Our son is 20 and doesn't know what he would like to do in the near future. Our kids are very capable of working and they aim to please. The world just needs to give them a chance to succeed. Seeing these kids last week was amazing, they were all working so hard. My husband & I were so proud of seeing these kids.

 antoinette f.

Thank you, thank you for this post!!!! I have been commenting lately on most of the articles on here--I have been SO ANGRY. And my head exploding with all sorts of research.

It was great to stop and just enjoy autism! What a great concept and a great story!! It really showcases our beautiful children and what great capabilities they have!

And funny, in regards to some of the comments, my 3 1/2 year old son also has an incredible sense of direction!! And his memory is beyond comprehension!! (we blame all the omegas he takes!)

Thanks again. This article has left a permanent smile on my face this morning.

Eileen Nicole Simon

Your Spider House event looks like it was a lot of fun. Wonderful to see so many people in attendance.

Dan, I borrowed your book "Saving Ben" from the library last Friday afternoon and couldn't put it down on Saturday until I finished reading it. Interesting that every page corner I went to fold down already had a crease where a previous reader had marked the same page. We had the same "paradoxical" reaction to Ritalin, and I've heard the same thing from other parents of children with autism.

Most moving was your story of how Ben found the way out of the woods when you lost the trail on your bikes! My son also has an uncanny sense of direction.

I wish you continued success with your Autism Trust Project. This kind of effort is sorely needed.


How the CDC, NIH, Paul Offit and all the medical insane wish. But it was not after my kids ate a meal from my farm and garden - they reacted.
It was after the DPT shot
and 20plus years later - I got to watch another reaction from a Hep B.


Study: Autism Pandemic Caused By Transgenic Food.

Leslie Phillips

It was so great to meet your wife and son and see everyone working together. Andrew had a great time even though it was a bit hard for him -- he's only twelve but we are always in the process of discovering what he wants to do and is able to do -- the greater barrier for us is the first (what he wants) rather than able. He struggles so much with maintaining connections with people especially in dynamic environments. There is a job for him, though, and we will help him discover it!


What a great video, of a very capable young man working hard. Congratulations Ben and family. (I'm in agreement with you Donna regarding how amazing it was to see in action with such a large crowd in such a small area, so doubly amazed at the results)
Thank you for your truly amazing advocacy and all you do. The momentum and direction is a wonderful inspiration.

Donna L.

That's it - we're moving to Austin!

(p.s. That was a lot of people packed into a small area. Personally, I'd have had a nice little meltdown right there on the spot!)

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