For the first six years of Jack Doepker’s life, he was largely misunderstood. His challenges started early when he was 2 ½ years old and evaluated with a global developmental delay, one of the core symptoms of autism.
Autism spectrum disorders are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. However, symptoms and their severity vary widely across these three core areas.
Jack’s mother, Karen Doepker, spent years searching to find a program that would help Jack increase his communication skills.
Jack’s elementary school recommended an after-school program provided by Autism Charlotte. Doepker took Jack and said it was the one of the most impactful moments of Jack’s life.
“The program connected Jack with people who understood Jack’s challenges,” Doepker said. “Jack has a different level of success than other kids, and the program helps reinforce what I instill at home.”
Now 8 years old, Jack has been in the Autism Charlotte program for the past 18 months, and over that period Doepker has seen growth in his communication and social interaction.
The Autism Charlotte program integrates children with autism into typical afterschool and summer programs with their peers and offers a balance of educational and social learning; individualized skill development training; recreational opportunities; and personal support with a 1 to 3 staff to affected child ratio.
Jack also has difficulties with his fine motor skills, and he struggles with tasks like holding a pencil or gripping a crayon. “He may never be able to tie his own shoes, so I have to be aware of the clothes he wears,” Doepker said.
Through the program at Autism Charlotte, Jack has increased his communication skills.
“Autism Charlotte has given us the ability to do so more with their wonderful program,” Doepker said. “I’ve met families who have different but similar struggles as our family. It’s good to know we have a safe environment to learn from each other.”
On March 16, Autism Charlotte is having its fifth annual Couture for a Cause at the Mint Museum. It includes a live auction of fine wines, private parties with in-home chef, jewelry and more.
“The hallmarks of Autism Charlotte’s mission are to help children with autism achieve their full potential.” Valerie Iseah, chief executive officer of Autism Charlotte, said.
Autism Charlotte’s vision is to bring together the Charlotte community to help children and young adults impacted by autism achieve fulfilling, productive and independent lives.
For people who don’t know or understand autism, Doepker wants to take the time to learn that acceptance is very important. “Our kids deserve kindness and patience, just like any other kid,” she said.
“Individualism, possibility and joy. This is why we are bringing together our city’s most fashionable denizens for a couture runway experience that celebrates the beauty in all of us.”
The 5th Annual Autism Charlotte Couture for a Cause
When: Fri., March 16 at 6:30pm
Where: Mint Museum, 500 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202
Entertainment • Auction • Food & Wine • Fashion Show
Presenting Luis Machicao’s Spring/Summer 2019 Collection
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