ENTERPRISE, Ala. (WSFA) - Being a parent is tough, but being a parent of a child diagnosed with autism comes with its own challenges.
“Being a mother of a child with autism - sometimes we get the diagnosis and have no clue of what to do or where to go,” said Lamettra Cox.
Cox scrolled through her phone to find a picture of her 14-year-old son, Lamarion. He is autistic.
"When you have a child that has autism or any other developmental disability it’s a little tougher, " said Cox. “But we just take it day by day and stride by stride.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Characteristics include a broad range of conditions including challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
Characteristics not always understood from the outside looking in.
“If they had a meltdown, people looked at us differently and just thought our kids were misbehaving,” said Cox.
As a board-certified behavior analyst, Cox works with children with autism and their families daily. But when it came to finding resources in her own community for her own son, she says she found options limited until she met Shelby Dipilla with Enterprise Autism Social Group.
“We’re about celebrating neurodiversity, that we’re all different but we’re all a part of the community,” said Dipilla.
Enterprise Autism Social Group provides resources for families with children who have autism, host events for children with autism, and work with the community to bring awareness and understanding.
“Inclusion events where we have people who have autism come in and interact with peers and just get to participate in the community,” said Dipilla.
A safe space for families.
“Shelby is able to provide parent training and social skill groups,” said Cox. “Let us know, ‘Hey, it’s okay. You’re not in this by yourself.’”
Wednesday, Dipilla celebrated two years of growth for the organization with a ribbon cutting at the Wiregrass Chamber of Commerce. She says they’ve been able to serve not only Enterprise, but have grown to serve several counties across the Wiregrass.
“There’s a need in the community because I realized a lot of families, when I was doing applied behavior analysis, they feel like we can’t go to public places if my child is disruptive or has a peculiar behavior,” said Dipilla.
The organization plans to host a sensory tent at Freedom Fest in July for parents to bring children if they become overwhelmed by crowds. They’re also organizing an autism awareness training for first responders in August. The training is to help emergency officials quickly identify if a person has autism and how to best handle to call.
If you are a parent who has a child with autism and need resources or a business that would like to partner with the organization, you can reach Dipilla at 334-477-4686 or firstname.lastname@example.org