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Autism Society of North Carolina Chapters – one person’s experience

Editor’s note: The following article is from Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) Parent Advocate  Amy Perry. We appreciate her contribution!

The Autism Society of North Carolina was formed by a group of parents in 1970 in hopes of finding support with each other and creating better opportunities for their children. Today ASNC has 45 Chapters, 3 Affiliates and numerous support groups across the state. I recently heard someone describe these groups as “the front porch” of The Autism Society. These groups are where new members are greeted, where parents of a newly diagnosed child find someone who understands what they are going through, and where grass root community changes begin.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a Chapter Meeting in Moore County. I was surprised to learn that the guest speaker was going to be the EC Director for Moore County schools, Kevin Allen. Mr. Allen gave an amazing presentation, and brought with him a team of his best and brightest specialists, therapists, psychologists and members of his Autism Problem Solving Team. The presentation functioned as a discussion panel where each member discussed their role in the special education system.

The panel then became an open discussion where parents and family members had the opportunity to ask questions. It was clear that the information being shared was beneficial to everyone in the room, but as I watched and listened, I became aware that something even greater was taking place. Parents began to ask the panel “What can we do to support you? What can we do to make sure you are able to continue to do your job?” In turn, the panel asked the parents “What do you need from us? What don’t you understand about the IEP process? How can we serve you better?” I saw parents with smiles of relief and appreciative understanding. I saw professionals seeing a parent’s perspective in a new light.

As a Parent Advocate, a large portion of my job centers around discussing frustrations that parents have with their child’s school. It’s not a secret that parents and schools do not always see eye to eye, but what we often fail to remember is that we are all on the same side. We are all there to help the child and it’s often a matter of removing the obstacles of misunderstanding so that everyone can clearly see how to move forward.

As I watched the Moore County Chapter Meeting, I realized that what I work to accomplish on a case by case basis was now taking place in front of me in the form of a community coming together. Despite frustrations from the past, parents were able to gain new insight and become aware of services and solutions available to them and their children that they did not know of before. The panel made note of several ideas they had gained from parents and made plans to share even more information and resources.

I realized that what I was witnessing was “the front porch” in action and that what happened in Moore County, as well as Chapters across the state of North Carolina, was the full realization of the dream that started with the parents in 1970. It was a true coming together of minds, a selfless exchange of ideas. There were not two sides, there was only a community coming together for support and creating better opportunities and brighter futures for their children.

Amy Perry

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