Our home life is in shatters. My husband and I desperately search for answers to help our 3-year-old autistic son. One day I open the newspaper and see a conference advertised in the area called DAN – Defeat Autism Now. One of the first presenters is a beautiful woman named Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, lecturing on Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, the behavior therapy that was improving the lives of children with autism and sometimes even recovering them. Another brilliant doctor, Andrew Levinson, spoke about biomedical treatments. I call my husband from the conference – so excited – and tell him I have met people who can genuinely help our son. And I understand that autism is an illness with environmental triggers and that any child can be dramatically improved.
And my life is changed. Because even though we have a late start, we now have hope. And within several weeks of starting the Gluten-free, Casein-free (GF/CF) diet, our son’s language begins to improve dramatically. It will be almost a year before we can get him into an ABA program of 30 hours a week, but once we start that, we see more improvements.
So I got the answer to the first part of the question in my prayer, where I asked God “Tell me what has happened to my child and HOW I CAN HELP HIM?”
It wasn’t long after that day that I received a postcard in the mail asking people to host a backyard fundraiser or a small barbeque to raise money for children with autism who could not afford or access treatment. And that was when I got the second answer to the second question of my prayer “Just tell me what is wrong with my son and how to help him and I will do anything you need me to do.” “ I knew I needed to help other kids less fortunate than mine. I saw that I could be the answer to someone else’s prayer.
So I did what I knew how to do, I rolled up my sleeves and started producing. This time it was a fundraiser instead of a TV show. I threw a party in my backyard, with a silent auction and entertainment, called it Denim and Diamonds for Autism and it raised about $30,000 for ACT Today!. A short time later I joined the board, and 4 years ago, I became executive director. Today, we have given just under one million dollars in grants to families challenged by autism.
My Disability became an Opportunity to do something greater and more rewarding than I could ever imagine. And now I get to share that journey with other families.
Next: The Steps to Empowerment