Santa Ynez Valley Journal, “Wings Home Takes Flight In Solvang,” June 21-27, 2012

Hidden Wings Home Takes Flight

Wings Home Takes Flight in Solvang

Hidden Wings – which bills itself as a school and “place of hope” for young people with autism – recently celebrated its second anniversary by moving into its first real home.

After two years of meeting in various places throughout the Valley, the non-profit moved into a building at 517 Atterdag Road in Solvang and held an open house on June 15 to show off its new digs.

“We’re attempting to build community,” said Jim Billington, who created the organization with his wife, Julia.

The Billingtons, who have two autistic sons, originally founded Hidden Wings to help young adults with autism transition into life after high school.

“In society, the passion for autism is for cute babies,” Jim Billington said. “Once they get out of high school, there is a tremendously diminished amount of interest.”

The Hidden Wings curriculum provides several activities for its members, including therapeutic horseback riding, music therapy, kayaking, hiking, art, yoga and Pilates. All of the activities are meant to activate the senses and build a sense of socialization, Billington said.

Having an actual home now, according to Billington, only adds to that sense of community.

“By locating here, we’re in a community where we can be neighbors,” he said. “Our goal now is to develop their skills.”

Added Aimee Carroll, who coordinates the music programs:  “It’s great to have a central location. We’ll still be drumming and kayaking and whatnot at Lake Cachuma and everywhere, but it’s a great meeting spot.”

– Report by Willis Jacobson

A Community Member’s Response to ‘Wings Home Takes Flight’

June 28, 2012—Letters to the Editor, The Santa Ynez Valley Journal, regarding Hidden Wings
I am writing in praise of your recent feature of the Hidden Wings facility (June 21-27, Valley Journal) in Solvang.

As a mother of a child with autism, it was with great delight that I received your weekly paper in our mailbox with our dear friend/comrade and aide J.J. Ballentine on the cover!

Our family has been confronted with autism since 2007 when our son, Luciano, was diagnosed at the age of 2 and a half. What ensued post-diagnosis was hour after hour of intense behavioral and speech therapy. The light of our days was his 45 minutes a week spent at the SYV Therapeutic Riding Academy where an alternative form of therapy was offered for our son, a therapy that allowed him to be free, spontaneous, in charge – unlike any other part of his day to day living. In the last year or so we have been able to welcome J.J. into our weekly schedule: a young man, diagnosed with autism. J.J. is a survivor. As a mother of a young son, I have lived for these weekly encounters where I can see there is hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. J.J. is an example of just that. A child who experienced an alternative education, therapy and assistance his entire life and he now thrives, is incredibly social and is one of the best people to understand my young son’s issues.

I am so incredibly grateful to hear that there are forward thinking individuals in our Valley that understand that as our children get older, the services they receive will fade and we will need a place for them to think, explore, learn, [and] grow. Hidden Wings sounds like just the place we will be searching for [for] our son.

Thank you for featuring a facility that is so close to our hearts and focuses on the heart of our town:  its people. I am relieved to see that we still place value on the human spirit. Thank you, SYV Journal. I am hopeful once again!

— Amy Koers Curtimother, teacher, community member