connect / 2019

Xavier's Place for Exceptional Children

Xavier's Place for Exceptional Children

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Tunson Leadership Foundation

Xavier's place is a center for our local West SFV youth and young adults living with disabilities, where they can come to socialize and be fully engaged in meaningful life activities with typical peers, community leaders and other adults. For most of these individuals, public and private schools are their sanctuary and solis but unfortunately they age out at 22 years and are left in somewhat solitude, isolation and lack of fulfillment.

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

As an educator for the past 20 years with the last 7 working directly overseeing Special Education in public schools, I have had the pleasure of coming to know many students with ASD and their families. I had an extensive conversation with a mom one evening and she shared with me her greatest frustration now that her daughter had “aged out” of the public school system. She told me about her experiences trying to find activities and programs for her daughter who was wheelchair bound, and almost everything had a “waitlist” for participation. When I inquired about the things that they would do on a daily basis, she simply replied that mostly they would go to the mall and “people watch.” It broke my heart to hear this story and to know that there are so few services available for these young adults.

Xavier’s Place will provide a space not only for youth and young adults to congregate but to learn skills and trades that will allow for them to not only function in society but contribute and thrive.

Which of the connect metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Residential segregation

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • San Fernando Valley

How will your project make LA the best place to connect?

How will you execute this program (you may include strategies, tools, etc.)

Phase I: Family Game Night is a monthly outing that we will host community venues across the San Fernando Valley and greater Los Angeles areas. The goal is to connect together youth and young adults with an ASD with their neurotypical peers and community members to foster understanding, education, tolerance and inclusion in a natural, fun and engaging environment. These events will also serve as fundraising opportunities for the development of Xavier’s Place.

Phase II: Imagine a place where the possibilities are unlimited. Your hopes, dreams and greatest desires come true everyday and it is the “Happiest Place on Earth.” No I’m not talking about Disneyland, but for some youth, it could be the next best thing. TLF has a HUGE vision to create such a place- a COMMUNITY CENTER, for youth and young adults living with disabilities that inhibit their quality of life. For most of these individuals, public and private schools are their sanctuary and solis but age out at 22 years and are left with isolation and lack of fulfillment. Xavier’s Place will be an oasis for our community where they can come to socialize and be fully engaged in meaningful life activities with typical peers, community leaders and other adults.

Information about the population being served

One in 59 children have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and many of the children as well as adults on the autism spectrum need help in learning how to act in different types of social situations. They often have the desire to interact with others, but may not know how to engage friends or may be overwhelmed by the idea of new experiences. Similarly, neurotypical peers and adults are often uncertain how to interact and often overwhelmed when presented in a situation involving an someone with an ASD. Xavier’s Place will facilitate Community inclusion addressing the challenge where individuals with an ASD often do not participate in community activities in a meaningful way, in roles that allow them to demonstrate their abilities, establish true relationships with others, earn recognition and respect from others, learn new skills, or simply to have fun.

A timeline of your activities

April: (Autism Awareness Month)Family Game Night

May: Annual Giving Campaign “50K Give $20”

June: Movie in the Park

July: Family Beach Party

August: Ground Breaking for Xavier’s Place

September: Family Campout

October - November: Set up Community Space

December: Holiday Grand Opening of Xavier’s Place

How the project will make measurable progress towards making LA the best place to CONNECT.

More than 97,000 children in California have been diagnosed with an ASD and LA County has highest reported population. Individuals with an ASD are members of our communities and it is important that we become educated about the disorder, learn to be tolerant, accepting and inclusive of individuals who live with it.

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Pilot project (testing a new idea on a small scale to prove feasibility)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Success will be defined by the number of youth and young adults who ultimately participate in community programs, events and activities as a result of their personal development in the area of socialization. Our goal is for participants to be able to include themselves in typical community activities including future training and employment on a road to their appropriate level of self-sustainability.

Additionally success will be measured by the number of community agencies, businesses and organizations extending invitations to individuals with an ASD to partner, join and/or become employed by them. By educating the community about ASD and providing them opportunities to interact with their fellow community members with an ASD, we open the door for inclusion and community building between these two populations.