Vibrant Mom Shares Her Strength with Other Autism Families
Autism Warrior: Julie Hornok
Author of United in Autism: Finding Strength Inside the Spectrum, foreword by Temple Grandin (release September 2018). She is the founder of United in Autism, and a board member of the National Autism Association of North Texas.
Location: Dallas, Texas
Accomplishments: Through the National Autism Association of North Texas, Julie developed a Moms’ Night Out event encouraging moms to come out of their isolation and be pampered with other moms walking the same journey. It was a huge success and is now a yearly event.
By working together with autism charities, providers and sponsors, United in Autism is taking this event to cities across the nation. Julie says autism affects every race, religion, and ethnicity bringing people together whose paths might not have otherwise crossed. There is an instant bond because they are all going through the same struggle together, she says.
Julie interviewed inspirational autism parents all over the world to see how they were able to rise above the worst autism has to offer. No matter where they lived or what their circumstances were, each parent gained the same insight that led her/him to find strength within the spectrum. Julie complied 30 of their stories into the book, United in Autism, to encourage other parents to reach out of their isolation and give back to their own community even in the midst of autism. The proceeds from this book go to autism charities around the world and provide free “United in Autism” nights out across the country.
Inspiration: Julie says watching her daughter fight day in and day out to fit in a world that is a puzzle to her, inspires her to challenge herself in all that she does. Julie says her daughter has truly exceeded any expectations placed in front of her, and she couldn’t be more proud of the impressive young woman she has become.
“We often focus on the child being the puzzle, but each of our kids is fighting to put together a puzzle of his or her own,” she adds.
Goals: Through an online worldwide community and in-person local community events, Julie says her goal is to help as many autism parents as possible connect and support each along this journey. Autism is too big to fight alone. “Our only hope is to unite together,” Julie says.
Advice for families affected by autism: “Having a child with autism can be physically, emotionally and financially exhausting. You are not alone. Find other parents online, or even better, in your own community to compare notes with. These parents will be your lifeline.
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Remember to take a marathon mindset with the therapy. Unfortunately, this autism thing rarely goes away, so it is important to also care for yourself, your spouse, and your other children.
Never stop fighting for your child’s future, but remember take joy in who your child is right now. As you know by now, you can’t always control your path, so find a way to be at peace within the unexpected twists and turns. Allow yourself to laugh at the ridiculousness of your life. Like the time you pulled her out of the fountain at the shopping mall….naked. Or the time she danced in front of the stage at a concert and then bowed thinking the applause was for her. Toss aside the judgment of others and allow yourself to be okay with what your family has become. Because of autism, the normal parenting rules no longer apply to you…permission granted to have a little fun with it.
Autism can make you bitter or better. It comes down to a choice. Your choice. The second you have the mental and physical energy, pay it forward. Not only will you be helping someone on the same journey, but you will find a new-found confidence in yourself.”
The “United in Autism” Facebook group highlights parents and educators from all over the world.
This article was featured in Issue 74 – Every Voice Matters