How can we help you? That is the question that the Pervis Foundation asks parents who apply for assistance. We did not hear this question back in the ’70s when Pervis Jr was born. What we heard was, “We don’t serve children with autism”. We heard this from all the agencies that were supposed to help children with disabilities. ‘We don’t serve children with autism”. We were an “orphan disability” because the diagnosis of autism was so rare.
Those of us parents who were struggling with this challenge were rejected and dejected. We set about trying to increase awareness of autism. I became a member of the state board of directors of Autism Society of Michigan (then Michigan Society for Autistic Citizens (MSAC). At that time, autism did not have its own category as a disability. We went to our state capital in Lansing and testified in a legislative session requesting a separate designation for autism. We Were denied.
We did not give up. We rescheduled and re-requested. We decided that if we were denied again that we would take our children with us the next time. This time we were successful and autism finally got it’s own designation as a disability.
I restarted the Wayne County Chapter and became president. I was appointed to the Detroit Public Schools Special Education Parents Advisory Committee. I became a speaker for United Foundation. I was appointed by Governors Blanchard and Engler to their advisory council, The Michigan State Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities (the DD Council). We met monthly and made recommendation to the governor about issues that people with disabilities faced. I joined other committees and parent groups.
Us oldsters did a lot of advocating and working for services for people with autism. There was nothing in the ’70s. I couldn’t even find a parent group to join. (This was before cell phones and the internet). Todays parents have benefitted from our efforts. I hope that we do nor lose any of the gains that we made. Now that more people with autism are able to advocate for themselves I am sure services will continue to grow.
I did all this to help make agencies aware that we needed help, and to help wherever I could. I know that with the increase in the diagnosis came an increase in service providers to help people with autism. Back then,, parents were divided into “survivors” and “non-survivors”. So were marriages. I barely survived both, but I have survived Pervis Jr and he has survived me.
Though parents have it better now, I know that they still need help. I want to help because it is my sense of responsibility to autism. Even the richest person who has a child with autism needs help, but they can afford it. They would not be applying to the Pervis Foundation for help. We help those who can’t afford services or treatments for their child.
I am not a person who likes to ask for help, but I have found that there are a lot of good people who want to help. If you are someone who wants to help, you don’t have to write a book or start a foundation. Just ask the question “How can I help?” if you have a friend or relative who is struggling with a child with autism. Maybe you could provide them with dinner a couple of times a month. Maybe you could take them to a park for an afternoon outing. Maybe all they want is a night out.
I would love to be one of the parents who share information about how they “cured” their child with autism, but I am not. My child is still handicapped and I am still speaking for him. When he was younger, I wondered where all the adults were who were still handicapped by autism because you never saw or heard anything about them. They seemed to disappear in adulthood. Pervis Jr and I have not disappeared. We are still here and I am still trying to make sure that he has a good quality of life.
Let me leave you with the Pervis Foundation motto, Matthew 25:40, “As you have done it unto the least of my brethren: ye have done it unto me”
Until next time: May the Power of God protect you; May the love of God enfold you.