FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Wendy Dawson, Executive Director
Phone: (O) 713.461.7200 / (C) 713.705.6851
Mom Power: How Two Houston Moms Created a Nonprofit Organization
to Meet the Needs of Their Autistic Children
A growing organization serves a widening community
of families with kids on the spectrum.
(HOUSTON, TX, May 7, 2018) –– There’s no bear like a mama bear: that’s what Wendy Dawson, founder and Executive Director of Social Motion Skills, and Denise Hazen, founder of Aspire Accessories, always say. The proof is in the success of the nonprofit programs the two moms created when they were unable to find resources in the Houston area to meet the special needs of their own autistic children.
“There simply were no services that solved our needs,” recalls Dawson, whose autistic stepson Cameron, now 22, came into her life when he was four years old. At that time, she and her husband sought assistance to help Cameron acquire the social skills necessary for navigating life. “There’s tutoring for math, reading, and baseball swings,” Dawson says. “Why not for social skills and job skills?”
Unable to find what she was looking for, she decided to create it herself and started Social Motion Skills in 2010.
Similarly, six years ago, Denise Hazen began making leather bracelets with her autistic son Nicholas after he had shown an aptitude for the fine motor skills used in leather crafting. They began partnering with the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, and soon they had to hire Nick’s friends to help keep up with the demand for their products. “All of a sudden, it went from a mother- and-son endeavor to a more viable business,” says Hazen. She joined forces with Dawson and Social Motion a little over two years ago, and today Aspire Accessories offers a job skills training ground for young artisans with autism––all of whom are paid for their work.
“We immediately identified with each other,” Dawson says of Hazen when they first met, “as moms wanting to create resources in the community that didn't exist for our sons on the autism spectrum so that they could find purpose, happiness, and community.”
Meanwhile, Cameron Dawson is currently a junior majoring in communications at Texas Tech University, and Nicholas Hazen, age 22, continues to create a flourishing line of products at Aspire.
The results achieved by these two moms’ dedication to their kids have benefitted not only their own families, but also a growing community of Houston families with autistic children. (The latest estimate from the CDC indicates 1 in 59 children in the U.S. have autism spectrum disorders.) To date, Social Motion’s programs have served over 1,600 young people on the spectrum or with similar social-cognitive challenges. The organization continues to expand Aspire Accessories and has partnered with Memorial Hermann Hospital, Clear Lake Infiniti, and, recently, FedEx to help autistic clients transition into the workforce as they grow older.