DETROIT – During this period, many parents of color have had tough conversations with their children. For some, that conversation is even trickier as their children are living with autism.
Some parents have banded together to help keep their children safe.
Camille Proctor learned that her son Ari had autism in 2008 and immediately sought out support groups to help guide her.
“There were no support groups that could identify with some of the things that I, as an African-American parent, would have to go through,” Proctor said.
That’s why Proctor founded the nonprofit organization The Color of Autism Foundation in 2009.
While autism awareness will always be important, Proctor started the nonprofit to bring awareness to the dangers of having autism, especially when you’re a person of color.
“I would always ask the question ‘What’s going to happen when he’s like 14 and he’s six feet tall?’ He’s almost there now,” Proctor said. “He doesn’t understand how to yield, how to communicate properly with authority figures like the police.”
Proctor continues to work with Ari about what to do in that situation, which is what Danielle D. is teaching her son to do as well.
“We’re teaching him to identify himself. He’ll say ‘My name is Daniel', follow directions, stay calm, breathe,” Danielle said.
She said her son also has echolalia and needs to be taught these things because his life could depend on it.
“If he sees a police officer, he may imitate a TV show he saw with the police officer,” Danielle said. “And even though he’s echoing what the police officer may have said in a TV show, he doesn’t necessarily understand what is going on right now.”
The Color of Autism hosts virtual townhall meetings and has workshops to help educate parents and others who may not have a child with autism.
Proctor has also brought in police officers so they can learn the signs of autism and the different ways of communicating with individuals with autism.
What Proctor and Danielle said they can’t stress enough is that autism is not a one-size-fits-all diagnoses. Autism affects everyone differently, which is why it’s important to be aware of the signs.
For more information on The Color of Autism or to donate, visit the official website here.