The Birth of The Parker Autism Foundation:
Shelley says: Both of my children were diagnosed with ASD's. My youngest son, Parker, was diagnosed as having full-blown autism. After that, I became seeing symptoms in my older son, Dakota, so I took him to a specialist who diagnosed him as having high-functioning autism. The impact of these diagnoses were devastating to me and I established the PAF in honor of my sons' many difficult hurdles and successes.
Autism changed my life and my children's lives forever. Behavior Analysis and Therapy (ABA - Applied Behavior Analysis) helped us greatly. I was lucky that I had a mother, although retired, was willing to go back to work and willing to sacrifice much to help her grandchildren. The national average cost for ABA plus Therapy for a family with one autistic child is $24,000-$50,000 a year. This type of additional expense is not manageable for most families. I was lucky that I had someone to help. I watch families saddened by the fact that ABA is not a possibility for their child. I have watched Parker progress while seeing other children struggle.
Through support groups and my interactions in the autism community, I have met many children and their families that are unable to receive this critically effective therapy. I wanted so desperately to help all these children that I came contact with! One day, I was praying to God for this certain family and this wonderful little boy. I was praying that somehow I would find a way to help pay for ABA for this child. I started to think of the alarming increase in rates of children with autism and the fact that most families will likely not be able to afford ABA for their children. Where would all these children be in ten, twenty years from now, if they do not get the help they need?
I knew something had to be done. As I sat there praying, something came over me and I found the answer. I would start a non-profit foundation to raise money and provide services to help families affected by an ASD. There were foundations to raise money to find a cure, but none to help the children already suffering. I contacted my ABA consultant and asked her if she would help establish and launch The Parker Autism Foundation. She agreed, and so we started the ball rolling. After much hard work, prayer, luck and love, the Foundation was up and operating by January 1, 2004.