Lee County nonprofit aims to help families with autistic children

Reporter: Belinda Post
Published: Updated:

Surviving and thriving. It’s easy to say, but for lots of families, it’s hard to do.

Hurricane Ian, for example, exposed how hard it is to thrive under the most difficult of circumstances. The powerful winds and massive surges changed the course of many lives, including those of mom Sahara Hines and her 4-year-old daughter Kenna.

Family Initiative, a non-profit agency here in Lee County, is looking for help from you as it tries to put together an emergency preparedness playbook for families, especially those with kids on the autism spectrum.

“Hurricane Ian happened, and we did lose electricity. It was just trying to explain those things to her and not totally understanding what was going on,” said Sahara.

Trying because Kenna is on the autism spectrum.

Challenges only get worse when the routine goes haywire for any reason. It doesn’t have to be a hurricane. That’s where Family Initiative steps in.

“Structure for kids with autism is so important and to know what’s coming,” said Anjali Van Drie, VP of Family Initiative.

Any of us experience anxiety, but even more so with our kids or our families—a lot of sensory and dietary needs.

The nonprofit provides services to families with kids on the spectrum and clinicians who specialize in behavioral and occupational therapy.

Family Initiative reopened two days after Hurricane Ian.

“This is where Kenna goes for occupational therapy, and some of these tools are particularly important in times of an emergency,” Sahara said.

The agency knew they had to be there to help struggling families and kids like Sahara and Kenna.

You can help Sahara and Kenna and Family Initiative by responding to a survey that will help the agency and Lee County better understand what support families need if or when the next hurricane strikes.

The survey runs until the end of March. Click here to fill it out.

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