I’m a parent of a child with Autism and Down syndrome. He was born with a VSD on his heart and at the age of one, needed to be fed by a GI tube. His health was very fragile the first three years of his life. I became very active in a Latino support group called “Crecer Con Amor”, where I met families with children with special needs. Since then, I have been very aware of the needs and resources available to the families. I find that living with someone who has ASD is difficult, but it is even more challenging living with someone with the dual diagnosis ASD/Down syndrome.
My son suffered a severe traumatic brain injury from a motor vehicle accident. Since his injury my focus has been on helping him acquire basic skills. Being a Parent Fellow in the AZLEND Program will help me learn more about disabilities and special needs. I am just starting out in my undergraduate studies and not 100% sure of my career path. However I believe that by being in this program I will have the opportunity to really see where I would like to go in my career choice. Also it will allow me to participate in various programs to help children with special needs.
Being a Chairwoman of the Hia-Ced District and former Health and Human Services Executive Director of the Tohono O'odham Nation, I have experience both professionally and personally the adverse affects of substance abuse on in-utero fetuses in my tribe, FAS being a huge problem. I also experienced the lack of systems to address the needs of this vulnerable and remote, Native American population.
The AZLEND program interested me due to the fact that I would like to be a team member of an integrative approach to treating children, everyone working together for the best of the child. My son is diagnosed speech delayed and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which initially presented as autism-like. I think that I will be able to bring a fresh perspective, due to my experience of being a mother who has been through the process. I also feel that it is a great opportunity for me to increase my knowledge in additional areas from my other AZLEND fellows.
I am very interested in participating in The University of Arizona LEND program as it provides an interdisciplinary training approach which helps those with disabilities reach their full potential. The program focuses and teaches about the importance of communication and gaining more knowledge about other specialties. I am also interested because the AZLEND program has high quality training and I want to learn which programs will better my child physically, mentally and emotionally as well as other students with disabilities.
My goal as an AZLEND trainee is to acquire a more focused approach in my public health career. I see AZLEND as providing a means of weaving together my educational and life experiences. My most life-changing experience has been as a parent of an 8 year old living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. His diagnosis has changed the focus of my career. I see myself as part of a collaboration, a public health coalition, working to strengthen the community's capacity for assisting individuals and families living with autism.