By Angela Barbosa
The world went blue for World Autism Awareness Day on April 2! Over 16,000 buildings and counting went blue to help shine a light on our autism community. On April 4, members of the Brazilian Families with Special Needs Children in Connecticut met for the first time with the goal to bring awareness, share, guide, embrace and support each other on their journey to help their children achieve their full potential.
“Famílias Brasileiras com Necessidades Especiais de CT” is a Facebook group created in August of 2013 by Mercia Regina Ordine, a Brazilian residing in Fairfield.
The idea of creating the group was born from her own experience raising her son Luigi, who suffers from Asperger disorder (AD). “Dealing with discrimination because I was a single mom, an immigrant, had an accent and had a child with special needs was difficult,” shares Ordine.
Ordine shared that she had met parents that were aware of their children’s disorder but who were afraid to seek help because of their language limitations and undocumented status.
The numbers kept increasing and Ordine could no longer ignore that she was not alone on that fight to help her son succeed despite of the AD diagnostic.
Although her life was planned around Luigi’s needs, Ordine found time to help other parents understand, accept and help their children within the spectrum.
Amanda Abi-Ali, a resident of Bridgeport, attended the first group event with her 7-month daughter Liz, and her son João, 13, who was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “We are here to interact with each other and help our children work on their social skills because it is difficult for them to socialize,” she explained.
João came from Brazil when he was three years old, the age when Amanda found out that he was hyperactive. When they came into the United States, around the age of six, João was diagnosed with autism.
“It is hard, but today, with all the trials, I am a better person because of João. There is nothing that I would have done differently. My unconditional love for him has changed who I am, and I always tell everyone that he is my ‘first love’.”
Before the group, there was no social setting or activity in the area where Amanda could seek information and interact with other parents with children with special needs. It took Ordine two years to be able to organize the first meeting due to financial restrictions.
“Between school meetings, therapy and taking care of my son, sometimes I can’t go to work at all and that reduces my income,” explained Ordine. “I had the assistance of Angelica Miranda and Adelia Lenhare, who have been running the group with me from the beginning.”
At the first meeting, Ordine also received donations of chocolate eggs and souvenirs for the children donated by Cicera Melo of Projeto Amor Cura/Love Heals, which collects donations of scarves, jewelry and wigs to help cancer treatment patients.
Towards the end of the event, I had an opportunity to approach Ordine’s son, Luigi, and ask him why he thinks his mom wants to help so many parents. Luigi looked at Ordine and said, “Because she is nice.” And that was followed by a smile telling her if she stopped talking to me he would smile even more…
The Familias Brasileiras com Necessidades Especias de CT group has 197 online followers. Donations of didactic toys for children with special needs as well as financial contributions are welcome to support the group and promote more events to help parents and children socialize. For more information, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/277020032440537/