Camille Proctor faces stigma head on and challenges it. She did it when her son, Ari, was diagnosed with autism at 2 in 2008, and she did it when she created The Color of Autism Foundation in 2009 to assist and educate Black families whose children have autism.
“We’re offering culturally competent support, which is really important,” Proctor says. “That is something that is not really offered in and around Michigan. It’s never been like that.”
The foundation offers ongoing parent training, with access to resources, now virtual due to COVID-19, for families unsure of where to turn. The next session is Nov. 7.
“We want to take our parents on a journey, no matter where they are on their journey, to learn these skills so they can support their child. We also want them to support the community. They are taking the skills they acquire and they are going to be able to replicate these skills in the community,” Proctor says.
The hope is to train the parent to become a parent navigator.
“So we’re giving them tools to say, ‘OK we’re going to help you so we can empower you to not just help your household but another household,'” Proctor says.
The foundation was started out of frustration Proctor had in getting her son the proper, affordable help he needed; she found few organizations that supported Black families with children on the autism spectrum.
She says she also found huge disparities in the African American community, leaving many misdiagnosed and undiagnosed Black children at risk.
“I made a promise that once I got a handle on our situation, I would help others.”