An African-American woman has established a non-profit dedicated to educating those in the Black community about autism.
After her son Ari was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 2, Camille Proctor needed to find resources that would help her care for her child. She also needed to make sure she knew how to deal with issues in the African-American community affecting young Black men.
The Huffington Post reports Proctor founded The Color of Autism in 2009, an organization that provides support for and spreads awareness about ASD in communities of color.
Proctor faced the unique challenge of learning how her son, who is now 10, will react to police as a Black teenager. Ari does not respond to social cues and his mother fears her son’s mental illness could cause him to be a victim of police brutality.
“When I started my organization, I’d go to different support groups and ask, ‘What happens when my son is 12 or 13 and the police approach him?’ ” Proctor said to The Huffington Post. “When you have any child of color, the first thing you teach them how to do is yield. What happens to a kid who doesn’t know how to yield?”
The single mom quit her job and founded the Michigan non-profit to help others in her position. The Color of Autism was inspired by Proctor’s struggle on top of the lack of support and information for Black families who dealt with autism.
A 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control says the estimated prevalence of ASD among white children is significantly greater than it is among Black children. One in 83 white children have autism, compared with 1 in 98 black children. The study notes the results may be indicative of differences in community screening and services than the actual prevalence. That explains the limitesd information available for African-American families with autistic children.
According to Autism Light, Proctor serves as director of the organization, and in that role she directly assists families with the challenges of raising autistic children. She tells the website that parents of special needs children should “build a strong foundation” and that “they also need to be able to express themselves because sometimes things become overwhelming.”