The new Cleveland Autism Center made up of local parents and educators passionate about creating programs and support systems accessible to the community is preparing to raise awareness about autism in the area.
The developmental disorder appears in the first three years of life and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.
Although the exact causes of these abnormalities and the exact number of children with autism is not known, community support, increased awareness, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are known to be beneficial to children and families coping with autism.
Being the Cleveland chapter of the Chattanooga Autism Center, the new agency will be able to reach those in Cleveland who are in need of information, support or services, and provide them with the help they need.
Heidi Humphries, president of the Cleveland Autism Center, said her passion for autism awareness comes from her own personal experience with the developmental disorder.
“My 4-year-old son Brodie has autism,” said Humphries. “I’m passionate about this condition because not only does it affect my life personally but it’s like a mysterious invisible disease that has no cure and it affects small children for the rest of their lives.
“Brodie’s autism is kind of in the middle to severe. My husband and I also have a typical daughter. Plus we have several friends who have children ranging from 2 to 22 with autism. I’ve met a lot of people who have children with autism and we all go through similar things.”
Humphries added that such knowledge has aided others who are struggling with autism because they offer shared information and provide a network of support.
As president of the Cleveland chapter of CAC, Humphries can organize meetings, arrange their location, make sure meetings are informative and productive, speak with the media and handle public relations.
“We’re trying to get the word out and find as many people as possible in the Cleveland community who need our help,” said Humphries. “We want to reach as many families who are scared to get the diagnosis needed and start the process of living their lives with autism.”
Cleveland’s autism center is already holding meetings where individuals and families are getting to know other parents of children with autism spectrum. Humphries said these connections with other parents sharing similar experiences helps families to know they have a support network.
She said everyone who joins their autism center brings their life story and experience with them, which enhances the program’s effectiveness.
“The people in our community may have resources that some of us have never heard of. They know people who know people who know people who can help others find what they need and get the help they need. Everyone who joins our group brings another piece of the puzzle. These pieces fit in the whole puzzle.”
The meetings are part of a support group and resource development for the community which also provides access to information about local services and resources.
The agency is currently providing, free of charge, a Parent’s Night Out, which includes free childcare for children with autism and their siblings.
The center is currently holding bi-weekly meetings. The next meeting will be Thursday at Bradley Cleveland Services on 764 Old Chattanooga Pike S.W. in Cleveland at 11 a.m. The agency is also planning free seminars for parents in the future.
For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. or call 423-529-0120.