We are pleased to announce that Courtney Chavis is the new director of Support Groups (formerly known as Chapters). Chavis has worked at the Autism Society of North Carolina since 2017, most recently as the Lead Triage and Connections Specialist. In that role, she facilitated connections between Autism Resource Specialists and individuals, families, and organizations.
Chavis also chairs ASNC’s Diversity Committee and delivers presentations on autism and culturally relevant topics to service providers, families, and other partners. Chavis has supported individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and community members since 1997.
In this blog, Chavis reflects on her own experience with ASNC’s Support Groups.
We find common ground through our Support Groups, which continue to meet needs through all seasons of life, mine included, throughout our state. I am from the big city of Greensboro; still, seasons of isolation were pervasive in our family for many years. Having fulfilling relationships and experiences seemed frustratingly close and far all at once.
Beginning my new role as Support Groups Director seems as good a time as any to reflect on how in the world my family’s steps led us here. My journey with Support Groups (formerly Chapters) began when my daughter was 4 years old. Suffice it to say my first impression did not win me over; it was the second impression where I started to find common ground.
I am sure the women I met at my first meeting were well-intentioned, but they did not connect with me, nor I them. I was a young single mother of two young daughters, one newly diagnosed, and all I knew was I needed support. I was not going to make it and I was reaching for a lifeline in that group. What I encountered were women with challenges I could not identify with; pending divorce, looking to hire a nanny, or trying to figure out vacation plans. I left feeling more alone.
“I hold a great deal of optimism for the seasons ahead as part of a group of people who are working toward a common goal.”
But I tried again, and I am glad I did. Going to a member’s neighborhood pool was a hit for me and my girls. We were outside and not only that, but everyone had someone they connected with. From there we had family dinners, calls just to see how we were, and I never would have guessed some years later I would become a “Chapter Leader” myself, planning and organizing with other parents. For the past five years I also triaged calls alongside our Triage and Connections team and have urged others to contact their local Support Group and facilitated warm introductions between individuals and Support Group Specialists or leaders. I am the one sharing information, so others are less isolated, and at times I let folks know to try and try again because the value of community means that much to me. It was lifesaving.
My daughters are now older than I was when I had them and I find that Support Groups still meet me where I am as the mother of adults. Even just checking in on Facebook and seeing faces I know is enough on a busy day. As my family’s needs change, Support Groups are there. In hindsight I realize the importance of the “front porch” embrace our support groups strive to give, and we are often the first impression for thousands of families like mine.
From a classroom at Gateway Education Center, to a pool in the Cardinal neighborhood, to Panera Bread, to Caribou Coffee we see groups of individuals connecting in like manner, finding one another and meeting one another where they are: a network of Support Groups with many different people who have autism in common. As I look around, my current colleagues include some of those members and we share journeys from 24, 10, and 4 years ago. It is my honor to work alongside our Support Groups Specialists, our entire Family Support and Advocacy department, and those who like me, and my girls, knew that we needed relationships for life. I hold a great deal of optimism for the seasons ahead as part of a group of people who are working toward a common goal. Community answers isolation and porch to porch, person to person, we expand our mission because we know our lives would not be the same without Support Groups.
Tags: asnc support groups, autism, autism acceptance, autism north carolina, autism resources, Autism Society of North Carolina, autism support groups, Support Groups