ATLANTA — Can parents do it all? Ask four Georgia moms and they'll say they no...because sometimes you simply can't do it all, alone.
Happenstance brought Lisa Lake, Ty Davis, Bettina Newton, and Chrissy Edgerton together, when they realized they all had something in common.
"I have a child that has epilepsy," Edgerton said.
Newton added, "I have epilepsy and I have a daughter who struggles with anxiety and depression."
"My older son has autism," Davis said.
"I have a son that has dyslexia. I have a daughter with ADHD and an anxiety disorder. And I have my youngest child who was born with a rare genetic chromosome disorder," Lake finished.
It was that commonality, that lead the women to start Telic Empowerment, a nonprofit for families with special needs children.
"It about having these conversation with people who understand exactly what you're going through," Newton said.
The moms meet once a month, to plan what they call the Parent Empowerment Group. Each month, parents and caregivers of children and young adults with disabilities meet to learn and discuss a wide range of topics they face.
"Having someone who could say, 'look, we try this out, we know it works. Go look here,' and just having that support system," Edgerton said.
The group also plans special events for children and young adults with disabilities, to help them feel included.
"If there was a skate night or a movie night, our kids weren’t always able to do it because it just wasn’t accommodating for them," Lake said. "So, we do these events because it literally is an opportunity for parents to do something that they don't get everywhere else."
The most recent event; a tie-dye party at Livingston Elementary. Everything was free, including the materials to make masks and shirts, resources, books, even diapers for families to take home.
"Some of our special needs kids aren't potty trained and you know, diapers are expensive," Lake said.
In emergency situations, the group even provides up to $200 to help families. Newton explained everything else is free, including their meeting, events, advice, and understanding.
"You want parents to feel heard," Newton said. "We can say 'don't worry about that. Have you tried this?' It's not just falling on deaf ears and it's not being misunderstood. Or to tell them, 'you're not by yourself, but you now also have things that you can try. You're not helpless or hopeless.'"
"Oh god, it is, it is just amazing grace," said parent Angela Smith, whose 21-year-old daughter has autism and cerebral palsy. "Because if you don’t do this every day and don’t understand it, then you’re so easy to be critical and judgmental and we don’t get that here and it helps to want to get our kids out more.”
"I'm going to give you my attention," Edgerton said. "And I'm going to talk to you like a person because you are and people remember that."
The tie-dye event was the first collaboration with Telic and Livingston. Principal, Dr. Yoli Curry-Howard was ecstatic over the partnership and what it would mean for families who called the school inquiring about activities for their children.
“Right off the bat, I’m going to be able to tell them, 'do you know we work with an organization that works specifically with special needs students?'” Dr. Curry-Howard said. "And they will here that and know when we say we're an inclusive school, we mean it."
That inclusion is what the group works hard for others to experience. Knowing their kids can just be kids for a day and knowing parents have someone to help them on their journey, is something each of the moms wished they had at one point.
"I found out my daughter had epilepsy when she was 18 months old," Edgerton said. "When it came time to find out like, how do we take care of this? Like everyday stuff? Like, where do we find a daycare, you know, who's willing to take an epileptic child. If we had a group, like Telic, then we could have had parents who may have had similar situations and can tell you (things) from experience."
Davis remembered when she received her son's autism diagnosis, "I was overwhelmed and bombarded and even felt trapped and bullied through the process that I was going through. I just remember getting hope, getting encouragement, getting support to from other parents."
Remembering everyone has a struggle means remembering everyone can find success. For the Telic group, success means reminding others to celebrate differences and support caretakers.
"We want to take the stigma out of the disability. Because we want to celebrate the ability," Lake said.
Davis agreed, "There's so much that they can do and we say hey, let them do it."
To learn more or sign up for the Parent Empowerment Group, upcoming events, or how schools can partner with Telic, visit their website.