Eudora — Two-and-a-half years ago, Rebecca Dority and her son Isaac walked into a room full of children.
About 20 youngsters surrounded Dority and Isaac, now 5. But instead of reverberating with the rambunctious noise and energy of youth, the room was silent.
As she looked around, Dority saw some of the children shaking or humming and others showing forms of "stimming," in the parlance of those familiar with autism.
Dority said it wasn't what she expected when she took her son to this autistic support group.
She started crying and they left. She wasn't ready.
"It's just a myriad of emotions you go through," Dority said.
She said she was new to the disability then, still in the angry stage of asking herself, "Why?"
Autism is a complex developmental disability that affects the normal functioning of the brain; children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication. Each individual is affected differently.
Eighteen months later Dority found herself and her family going through one less emotion: loneliness.
Later, Dority began speaking - on the phone at first - with Jacqui Folks, who also is the mother of an autistic child.
Folks welcomed her, and the women became fast friends.
"She's helped me. I've helped her. We'll be lifelong friends," Folks said.
Isaac and Folks' 5-year-old son, Ethan, also share the same paraprofessional teacher.
"When we get together as families we get along together," Dority said.
Since meeting, the two mothers have exchanged ideas and strategies on helping their children make the most of their lives.
Help with autism
Autism is a complex developmental disability that affects the normal functioning of the brain. Children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. Each individual is affected differently. The Lawrence chapter of Autism Society of America meets regularly at Schiefelbusch Speech-Language-Hearing clinic, 2132 Haworth Hall, Kansas University campus. For more information, call Judy at 838-4791 or Jan at (785) 286-3473.
"If I can give him the tools to help him get along better in this reality, then great," Dority said.
Folks, for instance, told Dority about a summer camp created especially for children with autism.
Because there are few "cut-and-dried" ways to treat autism, the little things the mothers learn from each other, like using sign language with Ethan and Isaac, help.
The women also trades ideas and tips from doctors who treat the boys.
"There's a lot of trial and error for these guys here," Folks said.
The meetings also provide the mothers with moral support.
"If I told her I was crying, we could cry together," Folks said. "If I were at the point that I'm angry, we can be angry together."
Dority and Folks constitute the support group Eudora Mothers Autism Network. They hope to learn of other mothers who need support. Next month is National Autism Awareness Month.
"There's not a face to autism. There's not enough awareness out there," Folks said.
Before her child was diagnosed, Dority said she knew very little about the disability.
But working with Isaac, she gained a whole new outlook.
"I'm not thankful my son has a disability, but I am thankful for what it has taught me," Dority said. "These are people just like us."