A popular blog on Facebook is “Finding Cooper’s Voice.” It’s the story of Cooper written by his mother. Cooper has severe, nonverbal autism. In her most recent blog which had over 117,000 views, his mother shared what it felt like to come to that point in Cooper’s life where she finally realized he would never be anything she dreamed or hoped he would be. She says, “But somewhere on the journey, we as parents stop dreaming of raising a doctor or a lawyer and start hoping for a good quality of life.” The impact of realizing this hit her pretty hard and she felt the need to share it with other parents of children with autism by blogging about it.
Her story touched my daughter whose own daughter is a child with high-functioning autism. But her story is not unlike Cooper’s mother. My daughter also has dreams and aspirations for her child. She too experiences those days when she walks out the door and thinks, ‘I’ve got this,’ and still something creates a meltdown and all trigger words, all the things she has prepared for goes out the window and nothing seems to work. And like Cooper’s mother, she returns home and is exhausted.
My daughter writes: “I want to hug her (Cooper’s mother) right now. This is the reality of parents with kids who have autism. While the spectrum is wide, they are all unique. We as parents struggle every day. Every night we fear the future of our kids. We fear we are not doing enough. Not to mention the everyday stress that comes with life and the curve balls we are thrown. We break down more than people know.” She goes on to say how lucky she is to have family and friends who support her.
The Chattanooga Autism Facebook group is a melting pot of questions, concerns, and appeals from parents reaching out to someone who understands. Over the course of a day we see mother’s asking questions about I.E.P’s, parents trying to find friends for their children, ideas for places to go where the establishment is sensory friendly, and even funny or sweet stories parents share that inspire and give other parents hope and joy. CAC staff or volunteers answer the Facebook posts too if they have some knowledge or resource to share.
The Facebook page is not used for ranting, but for positive support for parents and grandparents raising children under the spectrum. It is good for the community to stay in touch through the CAC Facebook page. Information about the upcoming Autism Awareness Day on April 1st and the annual Chattanooga Autism Conference on April 21 are both on the Facebook page. In addition there is a list of weekly events with details. “Like” the page and one can keep up on a regular basis and feel surrounded by the much-needed support the CAC provides to families.
No parent should feel alone. The Chattanooga Autism Center is committed to providing lifelong help for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders and this includes the parents.