Transforming Lives - The Newsletter of The Harris Center Issue 1 - Summer 2016 - Page 4

The Coffeehouse - Brewing a fresh new you For many of us, the chance to sit down and visit with family and friends over a cup of coffee is a cherished tradition. Whether the conversation is about work, hobbies or the latest reality television show, it is a way to form and maintain connections with others. For individuals living with certain developmental disorders, these kinds of everyday connections and interactions can be a challenge. The ability to make and keep friends may not come as naturally as it does to others, and the chance to learn and practice social skills in a supported environment may be limited. That is where The Harris Center’s Coffeehouse steps in to help. “The Coffeehouse is special to us because first and foremost it’s there for us. I wouldn’t change anything about the Coffeehouse,” says Amy Yother, the mother of one of the program’s participants. “My son is functioning better as a young adult in all areas, because of Coffeehouse.” The Coffeehouse is a drop-in program for individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or a similar condition. Delivered in a safe and comfortable environment, the services provided assist individuals in developing a better understanding of their disorders, developing skills to improve communication and social interaction with their peers, building self-esteem, forming and maintaining relationships of their choosing, being better able to express preferences, making choices, fulfilling goals, and successfully living and working with dignity and respect in their communities. Service plans are tailored to each individual’s needs and circumstances by a licensed psychologist, and trained facilitators implement these in group and individual formats for as long as the individual wishes to participate. The unique nature of the program even convinced Lou Ann and Dave Dunnaway to relocate from New Mexico to Houston so that their son, Kel, could participate. “We moved here to Houston because we heard of the Coffeehouse program. Our daughter told us about the program and we came down to Houston to visit her and to see the Coffeehouse for ourselves. After we talked to the staff about the program we knew we had to move. At the Coffeehouse program Kel found acceptance for the first time in his life with peers that did not judge, label and dismiss him for who he is. For the first time in his life he felt a part of a group,” says Dave. According to Lou Ann, “I have seen many positive changes in my son. His social interaction skills have improved, his confidence level has increased, he feels very successful and he has better dreams as well as self-esteem.” It is no surprise that families get so much from the Coffeehouse given the dedication of the program’s staff members. According to program director Margo Childs and her team, the staff strives to create a warm and friendly atmosphere that welcomes people. “Our individuals and staff are approachable, knowledgeable and patient. The staff always emphasizes the fact that this is the individuals’ program and they work for them. We also allow the individuals to move at their own pace and we make learning fun and interesting.” The Coffeehouse is open Monday-Friday and is available to individuals 18 years of age and older who have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder or a similar condition. Anyone interested in this program may call The Harris Center at 713-970-7000 for more information on eligibility and enrollment. Letter from Tom Hamilton, Ph.D. Chairman of the Board of Trustees After celebrating The Harris Center’s 50th anniversary last year, our Agency entered a new and exciting era that included a name change, an address change, and a renewed commitment to continue building and strengthening our array of services through innovative, coordinated, and cost-effective programs. As Chairman of The Harris Center’s Board of Trustees, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of you for your on-going collaboration and support in our efforts to continue Transforming Lives. My interest in serving on The Harris Center Board stems from a deep and personal commitment to improving the lives of those affected by mental illness and/or intellectual and developmental disabilities. As my tenure on the board comes to a close this September, I find myself reflecting on the many wonderful moments and accomplishments I have had the privilege of being a part of in these last 16 years. While they are too many to note here, I do want to acknowledge the tremendous progress The Harris Center has made during this time both in becoming more financially secure while dramatically expanding programs and services. There are many who contributed to this progress, but I want to give special thanks to The Harris Center Board and the wonderful staff of The Harris Center. The expanded and improved programs are a tremendous contribution to the community. Through its focus on recovery and the possibilities that brings as well as its commitment to helping individuals reach new heights, The Harris Center is an integral part of the well-being of Harris County’s residents. I am extremely proud of the work done so far by this Agency, and I am excited to see what the future holds. It has been an honor to serve on The Harris Center Board of Trustees, and I thank all of you for the opportunity. Sincerely, Tom Hamilton, Ph.D. Chairman, Board of Trustees