When Susan Byram’s 4-year-old son, David, was diagnosed with autism, she discovered a new world full of hope, uncertainty, and endless information. As she learned more, she started reaching out to others so they could share what they were learning and support each other. Years later, she and a few friends founded Autism Pensacola with the purpose of sharing information, resources, and raising awareness.
“We thought, ‘If we’re going to do all this work, we might as well share what we’re learning along the way,’” Susan says. “We’re better together than we are individually; let’s work together.”
Autism Pensacola is a busy organization, tasked with the five-fold mission to:
- Educate the general public about autism.
- Serve as a support group and network.
- Provide information regarding the diagnosis, education, and treatment.
- Advocate for, and obtain, better services for citizens of the Pensacola area who are affected by autism.
- Provide social opportunities for people with autism.
Susan says that educating the public is important because there are many misconceptions about autism. “It’s not something to be cured, it’s something to be understood,” she says. “It’s about understanding the potential of the person and supporting them in achieving it.”
Autism Pensacola uses four specific programs to accomplish their mission. Kids for Camp is a multi-week summer learning lab for individuals with autism and teachers. Parent Empowerment is a class taught by a board-certified behavior analyst who teaches ABA techniques. Take Me Home is a database police manage with information on autistic individuals in case they wander, as many are prone to do. Project Lifesaver provides transmitter bracelets that allow people with special needs to be found if they are lost.
Susan says the website, www.AutismPensacola.org, is a great place to get involved. You can donate by clicking on the the ♥ Donate tab and learn about volunteering and becoming a seasonal worker in the Get Involved tab. You can also follow them on Facebook.
Kristen Marks and the My Pink Lawyer team hosted two events for Autism Pensacola at her office for families to learn how to protect their future. “Kristen sets a great example,” Susan says.
David, Susan’s son, lives independently and works two part-time jobs. Susan continues to pursue bigger and better opportunities for him and others with his condition.
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