BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) – The Lowcountry Autism Foundation is dedicated to helping local families not only during April, Autism Awareness Month, but all year long.
The nonprofit has served the Beaufort County area for a decade, offering support to those living with the developmental disorder.
“I both think we felt a little bit of sadness. You realize your future might now be quite what you thought,” said Amanda Swajkos.
That was the first thought Swajkos had when her son Jack’s diagnosis almost three years ago.
“He is the light of my life and he has so many good things rather than just having autism,” she said. “He finds the greatest joy in the littlest things that I don’t even notice.”
Jack doesn’t speak, but he does smile, hug and love.
“When you are given the gift of having a kiddo with autism, you appreciate all the little things so much more. All the little things become the big things,” said Swajkos.
It’s something the Lowcountry Autism Foundation in Beaufort County knows only too well.
The foundation provides parents with free support services, “Night Out” events and more. It’s support for parents who need it and appreciate it.
“Even though our children are all different and have their own unique experiences. Having that common ground, having that support system is so important,” said Swajkos. It’s something she learned at her first Community Conversations meeting with fellow mothers.
“There were probably 12 other moms there. I walked out of that meeting, I took a big breath, I called my husband and said, ‘It’s going to be OK. I felt so much better,'” Swajkos remembered. “There’s nothing like having an actual person to talk to that just gets it, understands it.”
“We need to educate ourselves so that we understand it doesn’t have to be a scary or sad thing. It can be a beautiful thing,” she added.
“You do feel that overwhelming sense of loneliness because no one truly understands what you are going through unless they themselves have a child with autism,” said Sophia Townes, with the foundation. “We try to create this supportive community within our autism community.”
On Saturday, following their second annual Ales Golf Tournament, the foundation will be holding a fundraiser at Southern Barrel Brewery.
The microbrewery, located at 375 Buckwalter Place Blvd., will be serving up pints from 5 to 10 p.m. Those planning to attend can RSVP on Facebook.
“Let’s talk about it more,” said Swajkos.
“With anything in parenthood, it does get easier,” she continued. “You learn what your child needs and learn to accept that their differences are what make them so much more special. I believe that with all my heart.
“I wouldn’t take Jack’s autism away from him, it’s part of him it’s what makes him what he is.”
To learn more about the Lowcountry Autism Foundation, services offered and upcoming events, visit lafinc.org.