My Autism Family

My daughter Stacy was born in 1970, and diagnosed with autism at the age of 4. At that time, various doctors and specialists we saw had no knowledge of what autism was, and told me to ‘put her in an institution’. I was appalled, how could a mother lock her child away? What was I going to do?

The answer was simple; I would find a way to raise our daughter. When Stacy started nursery school, I met other parents struggling to support their children on the spectrum. In response to these struggles, we joined the York Region Chapter of Autism Ontario and it was there I found a place like no other. To this day, I still consider this group a part of my family.

Back then, many people with autism and their families were ignored, ostracized, isolated, left out, and bullied. Sadly, this is still true today; parents have to fight to have their children’s needs understood. When I found Autism Ontario, I finally found a safe haven.

It was so important for me to know I was not alone. Most parents know that when a diagnosis of autism is given, there is no handbook that a doctor gives you. When Stacy was diagnosed, I had no idea where to turn. Being part of Autism Ontario assured me I was not alone; that there were other moms and dads struggling to piece together their lives on this unexpected detour. We cried together and we also laughed together. Autism Ontario was a safe, non-threatening environment, where we could share our experiences and know we would not be harshly judged, or thought of as incompetent parents. We were part of a broader family where understanding and acceptance was the norm.

While Autism Ontario was such an important place for me; it was even more important for Stacy. Stacy had friends. Stacy could be herself. Stacy had a social circle.

Over the years, Autism Ontario has grown into one of the largest collective voices representing parents across Ontario. The organization continues to be the first point of contact after a diagnosis of ASD is made. Parents look to Autism Ontario to ask questions, get advice, feel reassured, empower themselves to advocate for their children in effective ways, and learn from others’ wisdom. As Autism Ontario is so connected to communities across Ontario, decision makers look to the organization for information around the issues that affect ASD families.

Why do I consider Autism Ontario my autism family? They gave me support and hope when I had none.

Why should you support Autism Ontario? Donations enable staff and volunteers to help families connect and access services across the province. Remember, there is no play-by-play handbook that lays out what to expect in the next 10, 20 or 50 years of life on the spectrum. Autism Ontario is positioned as a knowledgeable organization and is able to advocate for meaningful services, supports and a system prepared to meet the needs of those on the spectrum across their lifespan.

Stacy was a beautiful, happy young woman who touched the hearts of so many. She taught me so much. A friend of mine, Brenda Scott, wrote a beautiful story about her, which I’ll share part of with you:

“ …. Stacy represents a soul that has given much more than she has taken …. When one looks beyond the autism and other so-called labels, what you are left with is a lady that wanted to love life and be surrounded by those that loved and cared for her, as she did for them in her own unique way.”

Knowing that someone involved with Autism Ontario knew my daughter’s heart like that made me truly believe she was understood. Doesn’t this sound like family to you?

Please donate to Autism Ontario so that like us, others parents across Ontario are given hope, understanding, and the knowledge and information to see the potential in all their children.


Ethel Berry

P.S..You can hear more about my life, as well as why I both volunteer and worked for Autism Ontario in this short video clip.




































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