Archive for Thursday, March 9, 2006

Mothers help put face to autism

Dority, Folks strive to expand ranks, awareness with local support group

March 9, 2006

Two-and-a-half years ago, Rebecca Dority walked with her son into a room full of children.

About 20 of the children surrounded Dority and her son, Isaac, now 5. But instead of reverberating with the rambunctious noise and energy of the youngsters, the room was silent.

As she looked around, she saw some of the children shaking, others humming and showing other forms of "stimming" in the parlance of those suffering from autism.

Dority said it wasn't what she expected when she took her son to an autistic support group.

She cried and took her son elsewhere. At the time, she wasn't ready.

"It's just a myriad of emotions you go through," Dority said.

She said she was new to the disability then, still in the angry stage of asking herself, "Why?"

Eighteen months later she found herself and her family going through one less emotion ---- loneliness.

She began speaking ---- on the phone at first ---- with Jacqui Folks who is also a mother of an autistic child.

Folks welcomed her, and the pair became fast friends.

"She's helped me. I've helped her. We'll be lifelong friends," Folks said.

Isaac and Folks' 5-year-old son Ethan also share the same paraprofessional teacher.

"When we get together as families we get along together," Dority said.

Since meeting, the two mothers have exchanged ideas and strategies on helping their children make the most of their lives.

"If I can give him the tools to help him get along better in this reality, then great," Dority said.

Folks, for instance, told Dority about a summer camp created especially for children with autism.

Because there are few "cut-and-dry" ways to treat autism, the little things the mothers learn from eachother, like using sign language with Ethan and Isaac, help, Folks said.

The duo also trades ideas and tips from doctors who help treat the boys.

"There's a lot of trial and error for these guys here," Folks said.

The meetings also provide the mothers with substantial moral support.

"If I told her I was crying, we could cry together," Folks said. "If I were at the point that I'm angry, we can be angry together."

Although the local support group, Eudora Mother's Autism Network, has only Dority and Folks as its current members, the group will try to find more people at the start of next month, which is National Autism Awareness Month.

While expanding ranks, the group will also look to expand awareness.

"There's not a face to autism. There's not enough awareness out there," Folks said.

Before her child was diagnosed, Dority said she knew very little about the disability or others.

But working with Isaac, she gained a whole new outlook.

"I'm not thankful my son has a disability, but I am thankful for what it has taught me," Dority said. "These are people just like us."

The group will accept people who don't know a lot about autism as well as those who are affected by the disability.

The group could be a resource for the parents, but giving the children a place to interact in a local context is an advantage Folks said she wants to tap further.

"If they could just interact and learn more about each other, then they could really help each other," Folks said.

To help publicize the group, Folks said she'll be working with Nottingham Elementary School Principal Jim Lauer school to send information about autism and the support group home with students in April.

Folks said she hopes that would do the trick to bring more people to the group.

"Two minds are better than one, and three minds are better than two," Folks said. "That's what I'm looking for."

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