A message of hope from a social worker

I am pleased to introduce Bridgette Andrade, a Social Worker here at Easter Seals North Texas, as a guest blogger today.

A message of hope
by Bridgette Andrade

As a social worker at Easter Seals North Texas (ESNT), I work with parents and families from both our Autism Treatment Program (ATP) and rehabilitative services. I meet with families daily to provide additional resources and support to assure their basic and emotional needs are met.

Parents raising children who have disabilities face ongoing challenges. I feel the parents are the critical link to their children’s progress and successes, and I encourage parents to speak about their challenges and stress. Supporting the parents’ needs empowers their strengths in parenting and abilities to face challenges.

A tragedy took place in one of the communities served by ESNT that greatly affected many of us. Zain and Faryaal Akhter of Irving, Texas were murdered by their own mother. A CBS News story reported what the mother said during the 911 call:

When the operator asked the woman why she attacked her children, she said, “They’re both not normal, not normal. They’re autistic. Both are autistic.” Pressed further, she said, “I don’t want my children to be like that … I want normal kids.”

While ESNT did not know or work with this family, this unfortunate story brought tears to my eyes and caused me to reflect about the wonderful children with autism and inspiring parents I have met working at ESNT. I thought about the mother of the murdered children and how she must have felt alone, hopeless, and desperate.

How could this devastating event be prevented? There is not a way to bring back the precious lives of Zain and Faryaal, but their story has moved many parents of children with autism and ESNT to speak out about hope. Hope can be found within the smiles, laughter, and successes parents see in their children. Hope can be found within educating ourselves and the community about autism and the resources available.

The number of children being diagnosed with autism is rising. The one consistent message Easter Seals hears from families — after the initial apprehension and anxiety of learning their child has autism — is an overwhelming concern about the life-long supports their child with autism may need to be independent. Our Living with Autism Study results revealed that parents raising children with autism are very concerned about the future independence of their children. Parents raising children with autism also expressed concerns related to their own well-being, marriage, and raising other typically developing children.

Let’s face it. Parents of children who have autism deal with more stress and challenges than parents raising typically developing children. Parents need support to find ways to cope and manage stress. If you are a parent of a child with autism, please know you are not alone. Services, support, and funding are available. Across the country, Easter Seals is the leading provider of services for people with autism today. An example: the Autism Treatment Program here at Easter Seals North Texas serves children with autism from ages 3 to 8 years of age. Our program is interdisciplinary and includes Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). The program is funded with a grant through the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. Children come into our clinics in South Dallas and Carrollton eager to play with their therapists and other children.

Easter Seals is proud to continuously hear positive feedback from our parents in ATP. We have heard our families say, “Easter Seals North Texas has given me a sense of hope.” I personally feel privileged as a social worker at ESNT because I am able to share in the joys and successes working alongside the parents.

To read more about one mother’s heartening perspective that aligns hope and happiness, link to this story from CNN.


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  1. Jennifer Friesen Says:

    Thank you for your kind feedback. For other readers that might not know, Leigh is a contributing member to the Dallas Moms Blog and makes frequent posts about autism and special needs. Leigh, I truly appreciate the work you do in providing valuable information to our community and in helping spread that message of hope.
    Thank you,

  2. Leigh Attaway Wilcox Says:

    Jennifer and Bridgette,

    Thanks for this post! It is true: help for families raising children with Autism is available!! Unfortunately, some families, like the Akter family, don’t realize it, or they don’t really understand how to get assistance.

    I think that the CNN article you link to above really touches nicely on how culture can create more strain on parents and I appreciated reading that perspective. My heart aches for these kids…this family, but I simply wish that we could prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.

    Together, we can and must work together to spread the word that help is available! Thank you for doing just that with this blog.

    With Appreciation,
    ~Leigh Attaway Wilcox

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