MCSO teams up with Thrive With Autism and H-E-B for an amazing Autism Awareness Month event

By: Sean K. Thompson
| Published 04/06/2022


THE WOODLANDS, TX – The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office kicked off National Autism Awareness Month with an event specially designed for youths on the autism spectrum to come out and enjoy. The event took place in the parking lot of the MCSO offices in Conroe.

“A lot of us, just like everybody else, have friends and family members that have autism”

The event benefited local organization Thrive With Autism. According to MCSO spokesman Lt. Scott Spencer, “We partnered with a local 501(c)(3) charity – as we always do to keep it local in Montgomery County – called Thrive With Autism. It has a school, resources, and education of autism and bringing awareness of autism.” He went on to say how portions of the proceeds of sales of special t-shirts and badges went to the charity. “A lot of us, just like everybody else, have friends and family members that have autism and we want to show our support and spread awareness.”

The event includes practically every department of local law enforcement, including the Crisis Intervention Team, the horseback patrol, motorcycle detail, K-9 unit, and more, even a specially trained donkey who travels the county and brings loads of hee-haws to children everywhere.

Elizabeth Goldsmith, founder of Thrive With Autism, was honored by the partnership with the Sheriff’s Office. “I’m the parent of a nine-year-old child with autism, which led me to look for better solutions for children,” she said. “Right now my son is in a clinic that provides applied behavior analysis therapy, which is the gold standard treatment for autism and also provides access to academic goals. Unfortunately, I feel that if he were in a traditional school setting he wouldn’t be able to absorb that academic presence.”

She sought out other autism-friendly schools and resources throughout the nation. “There’s a place in Florida called Els for Autism – founded by golfer Ernie Els for his son – and I toured it. I was amazed at it for its academic setting; it had all the tools needed for these children to thrive. So I came back to Texas trying to figure out how we could create a charter school here to have all those resources for our children while at the same time providing it tuition free as a public charter school. We were approved recently and we’re opening in August. We have the foundation that supports the charter school and provides additional services needed, and now also the Thrive Center for Success Charter School.”

Autism awareness is of paramount importance to Goldsmith. “The prevalence rates are increasing with every time the CDC updates the numbers; currently the rate is one in 44 children in the U.S. are diagnosed annually, so we need better support for these children because they do have so much potential if given the right tools.”

The event was sponsored by local grocery supercenter H-E-B. Kitty Evangelista and Candice Cantu, representatives of H-E-B, enjoyed working the official booth at the event, giving out snacks, water, and prizes for the attendees.
“Scott Spencer offered us the opportunity to come out and share the day with Thrive With Autism, and we said ‘absolutely.’ We are big on priding ourselves in being involved with several different aspects of special needs or those in need, and feel like it’s important to raise awareness and support that,” said Evangelista.

Sheriff Rand Henderson was in attendance and presented a $2,100 check to Thrive With Autism that represented the proceeds so far from the sales of t-shirts and badges.

“While we’re focused mostly this month to promote autism awareness, we’ll be continuing putting our relevant training into use throughout the year,” he said. :We started autism awareness training in the last year or two and it’s continued to grow, and as the training has progressed over that time we’ve taken advantage of that; it’s a huge element of what we’re doing.”

Henderson lauded the efforts of Thrive With Autism. “We partnered with them to bring awareness not only for our law enforcement personnel as they interact with people in the field who may have autism, but also bring awareness to what autism is and the special ways you can work with a person with autism. It’s a great outreach event, giving the children an opportunity to come out to such a great event and see some of the law enforcement assets we have and enable them to touch things like the cars. They seem to be really enjoying it.”

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