OPINION COLUMNS

Parents of autistic kids embody selfless love

By Jimmy Alford | Published Saturday, April 27, 2013

You can’t take a break. That is one of the biggest realities of being a parent of an autistic child.

This is the last weekend of National Autism Awareness Month, and I can’t help but feel for parents facing autism head-on. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job, seven days a week.

There is no known cause or cure for autism. That would depress me, but in all my dealings with parents, I have been continually amazed by the love and determination I’ve witnessed.

Jimmy Alford

Jimmy Alford

I write a lot about children affected by autism and what their families have to go through every day. But I’m amazed at the strength of these parents.

I know they have doubts. Certainly they can break down. Not everyone faces autism with the same conviction and courage. Some might even give up – but in my experience, they are some of the strongest individuals I’ve ever met.

That inner strength is essential. One of the reasons I and many others write about and talk about autism so much is to raise awareness. People who are not as familiar with autism might see a child having a meltdown at the grocery store and think ‘Gosh, what a spoiled brat! Those parents need to get a grip.’

I’ve heard that particular tale many times. They are judged, when the fact is, these parents are almost helpless. But they push forward. That is real strength.

They love their kids despite all the trouble. There are sweet childhood moments they will never get to enjoy – playing T-ball, winning a spelling bee, celebrating an honor roll or a track trophy.

I can’t imagine the weight on their shoulders.

Most parents hope their children will go to college, get a job and make lives of their own. Parents of autistic children face a different reality: many of those children will require care their entire lives.

But they bear that burden and take their joys where they can find them.

If you know of someone who has a child with autism, get to know them. Talk to them, and be neighbors. Chances are, you’ll be dealing with a remarkable person who will enrich your life.

To try and provide some information for parents of autistic children and the community, here are a few resources:

WISE COUNTY SPECIAL EDUCATION COOPERATIVE (WCSEC)

The Cooperative serves a total of six school districts in Wise County including Bridgeport ISD, Alvord ISD, Boyd ISD, Chico ISD, Paradise ISD and Slidell ISD.
Phone: 940-683-8361
Website: www.bridgeportisd.net/admin/wcsec/index.htm

ONLINE RESOURCES FOR NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING FAMILIES

Website: http://www.autism-resources.com/links/nonenglish.html

FAMILIES FOR EFFECTIVE AUTISM TREATMENT OF NORTH TEXAS (FEAT OF NORTH TEXAS)

This Dallas and Tarrant County-based resource lists area autism support groups, information and events.
Phone: 817-919-2228
Website: http://www.featnt.org

AUTISM SPEAKS

National organization that raises awareness and provides information to families.
Join the Dallas chapter on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AutismSpeaks.DFW

AUTISM TREATMENT CENTER

Provides services to children and adults with autism in the community.
Phone: 972-644-2076
Website: http://www.atcoftexas.org

CALLIER CENTER FOR COMMUNICATION DISORDERS

This is a research and treatment facility at UT Dallas that specializes in helping individuals with communication disorders such as autism.
Phone: 214-905-3000
Website: www.utdallas.edu/calliercenter/about/

AUTISM SOCIETY

This is a national group that strives to raise awareness and provide information about autism.
Website: www.autism-society.org/.

Jimmy Alford is a Messenger reporter.

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