A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder can be extremely challenging for families and children. For parents of a child living with autism, a strong support system can be critical.
Leondra Garrett is a single mother, and two of her young boys ages 14 and 13 have been diagnosed with autism.
Her organization, My Pieces, hopes to share resources and awareness principally for Black and brown children living this complex disorder.
“I chose the name, My Pieces, because the autism national symbol is a puzzle piece,” Garrett said. “As families, we are putting our puzzles together one piece of the time.”
While it is difficult for parents to be ready to find out that their child is anything besides neurotypical, a diagnosis of autism can be extremely daunting.
A recent study shows that Black children are often diagnosed with autism at older ages than white children and can end up missing years of intervention and treatment.
Garrett said that many Black families struggle to find community and resources for their children with autism, but My Pieces now hopes to bring together a part of the autistic community that is underserved.
“Any parent knows when something is not right with their child,” she said. “But if you don’t know exactly what to look for and what the symptoms are for an autistic child, then you have no way of really knowing. You just know that there is something there.”
For children, a delay in diagnosis is believed to play a vital role in the even more serious health disparities that afflict Black children with autism.
Autism, which affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the U.S., refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
Her family unit knows autism firsthand and the distinct challenges facing communities of color.
“A lot of these kids are coming from homes where there has already been a lot of trauma, and so you’re looking at the other behaviors on top of them having autism,” Garrett said. “A lot of times it’s the insurance that you have, the lack of resources and just the disparities within the Black and brown communities here in Charlotte.”
The bright smiles of Garrett’s children bring light into a room. The love that envelops her home is unmistakable.
Because Autism Spectrum Disorder is experienced differently by everyone who has it, finding ways to help autistic children thrive can help make daily life at home simpler.
“I want families to know that there are people who look just like them who are willing to walk through this with them throughout the entire process,” Garrett said.
Garrett hopes to build a community to help families reverse the tide of disparities for families who lack resources and help those with autism reach their full potential.
“My hope is that it brings out families so that we can continue to put our puzzle together one piece at a time,” she said.
My Pieces is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 8 from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. at South Side Park, 2645 Toomey Avenue, Charlotte.
If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, public affairs manager at WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.
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