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Autism Prom Night to give those on the spectrum their night to shine

Ric Seaver, from left, Lee Selby, Glen Haworth, pastor of the Fount Church and Kristin Selby Gonzalez are planning the prom.
Ric Seaver, left, the family ministry director at the Fount Church, Lee Selby, the outreach director, Glen Haworth, the pastor, and Kristin Selby Gonzalez, a volunteer, pose for a photograph on Thursday in Fountain Valley. The individuals have formed the Radiate Possibility Autism Program and are hosting an autism prom night at the church on July 30.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

If a child is the light of a parent’s world, then that is exactly what Kristin Selby Gonzalez is trying to be for her son and others like him.

Selby Gonzalez, who grew up in Fountain Valley, has a son named Jaxson with moderate-to-severe autism spectrum disorder.

When she showed up to the Fountain Valley City Council meeting on May 3, Selby Gonzalez came to bring the community’s attention to a unique event coming to town at the end of July.

Autism Prom Night will be put on by the Fount Church, a social gathering geared toward providing normalcy and opportunity to families that may not have had those chances, owing to special circumstances.

Kristin Selby Gonzalez with her son Jaxson, who lives with autism spectrum disorder.
(Courtesy of Kristin Selby Gonzalez)

Jaxson, 20, never attended public school, missing out on moments cherished by families that have the chance to participate.

“A Night to Radiate” serves as a perfect theme for the event, as Jaxson and others like him will get to dance the night away in an environment understanding of their special needs.

“We want these individuals with autism spectrum disorder to feel like they can be themselves and enjoy their night,” Selby Gonzalez said. “An added bonus, more like icing on the cake, is the families experience watching their loved ones getting to experience this.”

The dance will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, and it will be open to individuals who are at least 13 years of age and on the spectrum. Formal attire is not required, and tickets come at no cost to families. It will be held on the church campus at 18225 Bushard St., Fountain Valley.

The Fount Church's sanctuary, where the July 30 prom will be held.
The Fount Church’s sanctuary, where the July 30 prom will be held.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The sanctuary will be the setting for the prom, which will feature a DJ, a photo booth station, a photographer and snacks for the attendees. Selby Gonzalez anticipates that as many as 20 people living with ASD will attend, and it is also open to their families and buddies.

Selby Gonzalez said donating time as a volunteer can be a significant way for the community to show that it cares. Those interested in volunteering can visit radiatepossibilitycamp.org, which is also the website for event registration.

“It’s not always needing to be your checkbook,” she added. “Often, it can be your time, and I think that what is so overlooked in the community — is that time is precious, and time is invaluable. I really think that getting them to give their time is going to make the community grow, be better, and really, that’s when inclusion happens.”

As a special education teacher at the elementary school level, Ric Seaver has witnessed the struggle children with the disorder face in social situations, sometimes even being sheltered from risk by their own families. He has long been motivated to make church a place that is understanding and welcoming of people on the spectrum.

The exterior of the Fount Church in Fountain Valley.
The grounds of the Fount Church in Fountain Valley.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

While he said he did not attend his own prom, Seaver said the upcoming event makes inroads toward that goal.

“I understand the significance and importance of having it, especially for the families to have their child dressed up in a tux and show up at prom,” Seaver, the director of family and children’s ministry at the Fount Church, said. “It’s kind of the hopes and dreams of parents.”

Pastor Glen Haworth, who has served in that role at the church since July 2014, said the special prom will represent another step in a pattern of assisting underserved community members. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, he said the church would hold “Welcome Home” events, offering a food ministry on Saturday mornings. Those events would include a hot breakfast, showers, laundry services, clothing and haircuts.

The church is taking another step to help those on the spectrum be a part of their community, as Haworth said it is in the process of outfitting one of its rooms into a sensory room, which can be a therapeutic space for individuals with special needs.

As for July’s prom, Haworth, who has a son with high-functioning autism, hopes that many will want to take part.

“We’re hoping to spread the word to other families in the community who have older children and adults who are on the spectrum and would be looking for some way to socialize, just to celebrate who they are and what they’ve accomplished in their lives,” Haworth said.

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