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Autism is a community affair, everyone can help

Dec. 8, 2011 at 6:08 a.m.


BY J.R. ORTEGA

Last weekend, the last part of the Missing Pieces autism series ran, and I could not be any happier.

It felt great to see the hard work I put into writing the stories and the equally hard work former Advocate photo intern Kathleen Duncan put into the photos and videos, and that it finally was made available for all to see.

But working on this series was never about the feeling of seeing your work published, it was about what we were doing for the community.

Just like Rosemary Watts Pena is giving a voice for her 6-year-old non-verbal son Adam, we were giving her and other families a voice.

Doing that does not have a price tag.

I don't even know where to begin with how much I've learned working on this series.

I tried to completely immerse myself into the world of raising an autistic child.

I learned how the school system worked with autistic children. I learned just exactly what services were available and what was not.

The one thing I could not fully grasp is just how much work and pain these families feel going through a diagnosis and just deal with the ins and outs of an autistic child.

I could only see their lives with a protective filter. I saw some of the tantrums, and I could see the pain in the eyes of the mothers as they talked about what life has been like.

I wanted our readers to see what these families do every day, and I want them to realize autism is a community affair.

It's in our schools, it's our neighbors, it's in our workplace, and despite its prevalence, it still isn't in the limelight as much as it should be.

Victoria has no diagnostician, and families are left scouring the resources Victoria does have.

I hope through this series that the community has learned more about autism and about what the community does and does not have. As a reporter, I can only write up the facts, but it is you who will make the change.

All I can hope is that I touched a reader's life, maybe sparked change.

Nothing would do this young reporter's heart more joy than knowing a family out there no longer feels alone.

J.R. Ortega is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6504 or jortega@vicad.com, or comment on this story at www.VictoriaAdvo cate.com.

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