Helping those with autism: One family's mission

AMARILLO, Texas----An Amarillo family raising two autistic twin boys is hoping to shine the spotlight on the often hidden condition affecting children across the nation and right here in the Panhandle.

Anyone with an autistic friend or family member can relate to just how tough life can be.

But that's not stopping the Harmon family. In fact, it's only made them stronger.

"Mommy," 7-year old William Harmon yells inside his mother's newly opened thrift store off S. Washington St.

"We started in the spring by going to garage sales and asking for leftovers," Aly Harmon explains.

After months of collecting donations, Lil' Treasures Thrift Shoppe opened its doors.

Unlike most stores in the business of making money, this store is committed to donating a portion of their's for autism research.

"We're helping a cause that's new with a lot of unknowns," she said.

Harmon has two energetic 7-year old boys. She says everything seemed normal at first, but then her suspicions grew.

"It wasn't until we put them in day care when we noticed immediately that our two year olds were completely different from the classroom of two year olds.

During the hunt to diagnose her sons William and Luke, she found it hard to find assistance.

"We went to the pediatrician the twins have had since they were born and she referred us to a doctor in Lubbock who specializes in it and to drive two hours to see an autism specialist was disheartening," she said.

So then she decided a thrift store would be an excellent opportunity to fund new research and start new support groups for people with autism.

Her two boys seem to appreciate the store as well.

Today, William showed me some of his favorite movies.

His sister says they love to watch television, play games and draw.

"My brothers are awesome and they do a lot of things that are really funny," Alex Harmon said. "Luke likes to show off all the time and they are both good at memorizing things.

While their memorization and keen eye for organization may be impeccable, those with autism generally have a lack of social skills and problems with comprehension.

That's something Harmon says will be a touch rock to climb as the years go on.

"We really don't know where there minds are going to take them," she said. "Luke will probably go back into mainstream education in a few years but William will probably always be with us in some form or fashion because I'm not sure if we'll ever be able to get him where he needs to be on his own."

Both William and Luke are part of the newly created autism program at Texas Panhandle Centers.

Harmon says she plans on having support groups at her facility and employing those with special needs.

Their address is:

4021 S. Washington St.

Hours of operation:

Mon-Sat: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Sun: 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Lil' Treasure's always welcomes new donations.

For more information, you can contact Aly at