My name is Tiffany Williams, and this is my son, Carlos Williams. He has Autism and is Non-Verbal. He is 15yrs old but cognitively he is around the age of 4. He is unique, mysterious, and smart in his own way. He is indeed the love of my life. His journey with Autism began at age 18 months. His ability to speak and desire to eat once loved foods completely disappeared. Then came the meltdowns, insomnia, biting, kicking, screaming, headbanging, and eating styrofoam and paint. Tasks such as brushing teeth, haircuts, or even driving a different way to school were nearly impossible. Autism had taken away the child that met all developmental milestones on time or early. My once verbal, fun, easy going child was gone. This new child was the new normal and I had no idea how to take care of him. With the help of an amazing early pre-K school team and the Marcus Autism Center he was able to be potty trained, the pica resolved, and he began to try new foods. He finally got used to haircuts and driving different paths to school. However, many minor medical procedures, dental procedures, and labs continue to require him to be sedated. Once puberty hit, we got the wind knocked out of us. Carlos started having seizures and his right hip developed avascular necrosis resulting in 3 surgeries including a hip replacement at age 13. The mountain of medical bills for all the doctor visits, specialists, therapy, and supplies, exhausted my savings. I went deeply into debt. Carlos’s father and I divorced, and I had primary custody. Trying to take care of him on my own and holding down a full-time job was not working. I needed help. Carlos and I moved in with my mother and brother. This family dynamic made life so much better for us. Although there were three adults helping in the care of Carlos, his needs often left each one of us depleted physically and financially. Due to his many health issues, he missed a lot of school and he regressed. Public school failed to provide extra support, nor did it focus on Carlos’s needs. Public school would not give him daily speech and occupational therapy, ABA, nor life skills training that he so desperately needed. His outpatient speech and occupational therapy was often inconsistent and limited due to financial constraints, insurance issues, transportation, and other health issues taking priority.
Once the COVID19 pandemic took over, his behavior and skills deteriorated even more. I had to accept that Carlos will never live independently and will be with me for as long as I am able to care for him. My goals for him had to change as well. My focus is on developing his life skills, self-care and personal safety. Public school does not provide life skills training until after they graduate high school and go to a transitional academy. My son can no longer wait on the public school system. He deserves better. It has been my dream to send my son to private Autism school. I wanted Carlos to have at least one opportunity to have all the services he needs in one place on a consistent schedule. Only private Autism schools offer this. I found an Autism school that could meet his needs called the MDE School. The cost is $22,000 a year. I decided to have a fundraiser on my own. I created a GoFundMe page and blasted emails, phone calls and text messages to friends and family. I was able to raise $2,000, and that paid for the deposit, school fees, and first month of school tuition. He also received $8,091 from the SB10 scholarship from Cobb County to use for his tuition. This leaves me with approximately $13,000 out of pocket. My family and I are struggling to pay for the remaining cost of tuition, but we refuse to give up on Carlos. Since starting the MDE Autism school, Carlos has become more verbal than ever before! He is getting speech and occupational therapy 1:1 and it is a regular part of his school day. ABA has also been involved and are in the process of getting him set up to have it daily. My son is happy at his new school and is showing more interest in learning to do things independently. As I began to sell some items online and send more Facebook and email requests for more donations, I received a call from the ABA company that is seeing my son at his new school. I was informed about the Specially Gifted Foundation and to reach out to them regarding my need for tuition assistance. I was connected to Meaghan, Bree, and Macey. These ladies were a joy to work with and made the process seamless. I want to thank the SGF family for providing tuition assistance to help keep my son in Autism school this year! Thank you for this love gifted blessing! Thank you for making my dream come true!!
Gift: MDE Autism School tuition
Given: October 2021
Location: Cobb County