‘A fair chance in life’: Free Albany autism resources are growing
ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - 1 in 44 kids is diagnosed with autism, leaving many parents unsure of the next steps. But one Albany mom is making sure there are plenty of resources available for local families in need.
Sheila Jackson described what it’s been like raising her son Reginald, who was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old.
“Mentally and emotionally I struggled because I didn’t know what to do,” Sheila Jackson, founder of Reginald’s Safe Haven, said.
She says searched for resources in Albany but learned that they were limited, with various waitlists and not enough certified specialists to help out.
“When he would have tantrums and go into sensory overload and things like that, they didn’t know how to handle. I would have to leave work and I was at risk of losing my job,” Jackson said.
She then decided to create her own resource, Reginald’s Safe Haven, named after her son. The nonprofit provides childcare and therapeutic services for autistic kids as well as educational resources for parents — something she says she wishes she had from the start.
“With him, I knew that I was his voice and again I wanted to make sure he had a fair chance at life,” Jackson said.
A fair chance at life Eric Dellinger, another concerned parent, said he wants for his twin eight-year-old boys who are diagnosed with autism. That’s why they are now in Mexico Beach for a better chance.
“There are several organizations coming together that have noted the lack of resources in this area,” Dellinger said.
That hasn’t stopped him from helping to bring more resources to Albany with his clothing brand Auti Love.
“People need to be aware that they are socially different from other children,” Dellinger said.
That same message is what Sheila Jackson is trying to also spread.
“They are diagnosed with something but that is not who they are. And they are capable of doing everything we all are,” Jackson said. “I was just set up to accept the fact that he was not going to be verbal, he was not going to be able to do anything on his own. And I was not going to allow that to happen. So I went to work.”
Jackson has one message for families impacted by an intellectual disability.
“Do not look at your beginning to see your end. Had I done that, he would have never accomplished the things that he has,” she said.
Through her nonprofit, Jackson plans to continue spreading resources at her 1st annual Autism Awareness Walk. The event is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at Veterans Park Amphitheater. For more information about the event or Reginald’s Safe Haven, click here.
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