By Sherri

I am the mother of three beautiful children. My twin daughters came into my life through adoption. My son came into my life through birth. My children are precious and have brought me more joy than I could ever imagine. My son is 18 years old. He was diagnosed with early infantile autism, Inattentive and Impulsive ADHD, dysgraphia, and anxiety disorder. He is honest, fair, and intelligent. He also will probably never leave home because he didn’t receive the early intervention that he needed to become successful.

Before my children were born I was working for a Fortune 500 company making a very good wage. I am now working for a grocery store making $7.50 per hour. I am unable to make more than that for several reasons. They all have to do with my son’s disability.

I co-founded the Lee’s Summit Autism Support Group because I was frustrated and didn’t know where to go for help. I met another mother on a website for parents of children with disabilities. We quickly became support for each other and spoke on the telephone frequently. We started our group because we knew that there had to be other families out there that were suffering the same way and needed the same support that we were looking for.  I will not begin to describe the trials and tribulations that we have encountered trying to get our support group going, but I can proudly tell you that through persistence and sheer will we have a wonderful group of parents now. This leads to my issue with employment.

I cannot give up my support group, and it takes a huge amount of my time. I am willing to accept that challenge, and will not give it up. I do a lot of the work when my children are in bed.
My son was forced to drop out of high school and because there is such a lack of knowledge about autism, he misses 30 days of school each year. This is because his IEP isn’t being implemented and his teachers don’t understand that children with autism need to chew. Therefore, he is reprimanded for chewing, or he shuts down and his teacher writes him up. This all leads to him becoming physically ill and having to be picked up from school.  Then there are the appointments with doctors to try to find the right medication to address some of his issues. This is no small task and requires diligence and time. I can’t work for a company that expects me to be at work every day. I need to be available during school hours. I can only work weekends, evenings, and nights. This has led to me making half of what I made over 20 years ago and missing out on a lot of family time with husband and children.  I am fortunate. My husband makes a good living and I can afford to make this sacrifice. For years I was able to stay home, but with the present economy, I have been forced back to work. Some families ’don’t have this choice. Some families are made up of single mothers who are in fear of losing their jobs when they are called to school to pick up their children.

I am a mother who felt she knew everything that she needed to know to raise children. The day that my son was born, that all changed. I have become an advocate and a lobbyist. . My son’s life depends on it.