By Edwin Vega
For the Fort Bend Star
Inspired by the hardships of a hard working mother and father of identical triplets all diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Hope For Three, a local non-profit and advocacy organization in Fort Bend County, provides assistance to families with children diagnosed with autism.
Hope and Eric Montgomery are proud parents of identical triplet girls, Londyn, Lakin and Lauren. The girls were born healthy and arrived home within days of their birth. At approximately two years of age, Hope noticed regression in Lakin; delayed reactions, lack of eye contact, repetitive behavior, disassociation and her verbal communication rapidly declined. Shortly thereafter, Londyn and Lauren began having the same symptoms.
ASD is a neurological disorder that results in impaired social interaction and communication, as well as restricted behavior, and at age 4, all three girls were diagnosed with pervasive development disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS); a diagnosis that falls under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder.
With Hope For Three’s support, both parents continue to search and provide every opportunity available to ensure the well being of their daughters.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “One in 68 children are diagnosed with autism” and “one in 45 school age children are now affected.” ASD is a life-long condition with no medical cause or cure. In the United States, one out of 54 boys and one in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism.
“Every 11 minutes a child is diagnosed. By way of comparison, this is more children than are affected by juvenile diabetes, AIDS and cancer combined,” the CDC reported.
Inspired by the Montgomery triplets, Hope For Three provides assistance for autism related expenses to children that may be uninsured or under-insured. Funding is never provided to a parent or caregiver, only to an approved service provider, treatment facility or vendor.
Hope For Three is the only nonprofit organization in Fort Bend County to focus solely on autism and since 2011, when Hope For Three was founded, its mission has been to raise community awareness, act as advocates and provide support for families with limited resources.
“The more you give, the more you receive in return,’ said Darla Farmer, executive director of Hope For Three. “We do whatever it takes to help families. We impact and change lives by making ourselves available to families and whatever needs they have.”
Hope For Three provides several different programs aimed to inspire and motivate individuals within the autism community. The Teen Huddle is a group of driven and caring high schoolers that work together to promote autism awareness and host a variety of events supporting the autism community in Fort Bend County. The Teen Huddle hosts two programs: Sibling Sessions and Parents Night Out, both in partnership with Sugar Land Family Church.
Sibling Sessions feature teen mentors partnering with siblings of children with autism to develop friendships and encourage support among the siblings through a variety of activities. Parents Time Out provides parents and caregivers a three‐hour break while entertaining all children in the family, a much-needed “time‐out,” which is a rare occasion for many and a first time out for most.
Hope For Three and Sugar Land Family Church provide inclusion for all children in a safe and welcoming environment to explore and experience fun times like every other child. Through Hope For Three, collaboration with the Sugar Land Police Department, Safe Return was implemented to allow first responders to have access to critical information designed to help safely reunite families in the special needs community.
To support Safe Return, Hope For Three serves as the exclusive autism educator for Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office Crisis Intervention Team program, led by Lt. Scott Soland. The program educates law enforcement and first-responders from across the Greater Houston area on the characteristics of ASD as well as providing intervention techniques for diffusing crisis situations.
Hope For Three has provided help and created hope for more than 900 family members in the autism community and awarded over $500,000 in financial assistance to children who might otherwise go without life-changing interventions or therapies due to high cost or lack of coverage.
The lifetime cost to care for a person with autism is estimated to extend up to $2.4 million. With the help of grants, fundraising and donations, Hope For Three can continue to impact communities, families, and children by providing funding, outreach, awareness, support and hope.
“We are confident in our ability to make real change happen for Fort Bend families, but we still have a long way to go,” Farmer said.
Hope For Three is one of the leading autism advocacy groups in the Greater Houston area and the only nonprofit in the Fort Bend area to provide financial assistance.
For more information about Hope For Three, how to donate or volunteer, visit www.hopeforthree.org, or call 281-245-0640.