DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dan and Susan Burns worry about where their son will live and learn after they are gone. 23-year-old Benjamin Burns was diagnosed with Autism when he was three. He graduated from high school and attends a center for adults with developmental delays. But that center does not specialize in adults with autism and the Dallas couple is now spearheading an effort to build a complex called The Autism Trust.
“I want to establish a network of rural and urban villages where adult children with autism, like Ben, graduates from high school, have a safe place to live and work and make friends” says Mr. Burns.
The Burns say their son was deemed “unemployable” by a social service agency and they disagree with that assessment. “He can bus tables. He can pick up trash. We thought about going into the doggie pooper scooper business” says Susan Burns.
Thursday night at 7pm the Burns are hosting a free book-signing event to introduce North Texans to the concept behind The Autism Trust, which is currently operating in Hampton, England.
“It’s not going to be the government that does this” says Mr. Burns. “It’s going to be the parents, bringing their own resources. This will be largely privately-funded” he says.
April 28th – 7pm
Angelika Film Center
7205 Bishop road
Plano, Texas 75024
Dr. Andrew Wakefield, Rupert Isaacson and Kristin Neff
Free Presentation and Book Signing
The Autism Trust complex in England includes a conference center, business center, vocational opportunities, residential accommodations and retail facilities operated and run by people with autism.
The idea to build a similar “village” in Austin is still in its infancy and the Burns and their collaborators are looking for private funding. Eventually they hope to build more centers “in any state that welcomes us” says Mr. Burns.
“We have hopes for Ben, that he can have a meaningful life, that he can have meaningful work and friends” says Mrs. Burns. “That he can continue to learn.”
Susan Burns says there will be challenges. “Nobody knows how to attack this whole upcoming wave of autism and we’re new at it and whenever you’re new at something, you make a huge amount of mistakes because you go on anyway” she says. “The challenge is never having done it before.”