Oregon family creates nonprofit center to help people with autism

The center is said to have an individual therapy program for people between the ages of 13 and 21.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Profound autism is a journey Ram and Kellee Hernandez never expected for their son Luka — and as he got older, they struggled to find therapy that met his needs.

There are many services for people with high functioning autism and for different disabilities. But there is one pocket that seems to have been overlooked, and those are the ones with the most needs and with a lot of passion in their lives.

“We remember being new parents and so excited about our son’s future,” Kellee said.

“But sometimes life throws a curve ball at you, and that happened to us when Luka was two years old and was diagnosed with autism,” Ram concluded.

Now Kellee and Ram are raising money to start a non-profit organization that could help Luka and others like him. They call it The center of the estuary.

“We see our center as this bridge,” Ram said. “Being able to connect autistic people to the community, and also for the community to embrace autistic people and nurture and care for them in a way that autistic people grow and thrive in their communities. “

They say it would be a 35-hour-a-week one-on-one therapy program for people between the ages of 13 and 21.

This would involve teaching Luka and others practical life skills, like paying a cashier or getting your teeth cleaned, and then going out into the community and applying those skills.

Kellee says it’s important because as parents, they won’t always be there to help.

“Put simply, we can’t die,” Kellee said. “Eighty percent of adults with autism live at home with their parents and will never live without supervision.”

This is an expensive undertaking with money needed for the center itself, as well as office space, supplies, technology, and a van to transport students to outings. They recently received a $20,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation, but that’s just the start.

Those wishing to help with fundraising efforts for the Estuary Center can visit This site.

Virginia S. Braud