Camille Proctor is helping parents with children who have autism find much-needed resources through her foundation.
MICHIGAN — She found out over lunch.
Over a decade ago in Atlanta when Camille Proctor was sitting across from her white counterpart over a southern-hospitality style spread when she learned that she wasn’t getting all the resources she needed to help her son, Ari, who was diagnosed with autism at age two in 2008. Not because she didn’t search for them, though.
The woman, who she discovered on a playdate — was afforded many opportunities for assistance with her own child who has autism — and she helped Proctor, too. Beforehand, Proctor was dipping into her retirement savings paying for numerous medical bills because she wasn’t given the resources to have them covered for free.
“I made a promise that once I got a handle on our situation I would help others,” she said.
A Helping Hand
Because of the huge lack of assistance she received initially in caring for Ari, she felt that other parents might have these issues, too. So she created The Color of Autism Foundation in 2009 to help and assist Black families whose children have autism.
“We’re offering culturally competent support, which is really important where we have parents that can talk about things (whatever it is),” Proctor said. “That is something that is not really offered in and around Michigan. It’s never been like that.”
The foundation is an African American parent support network for children with autism.
Statistically speaking, black children are diagnosed with autism years later than their white peers. Proctor also says a lot of mothers of black, autistic sons have an extra layer of fear that their children will be stopped by police and be deemed as hostile or something worse if they don’t follow the officer’s commands — not because they are non-compliant, though.
Proctor says that it’s very hard to explain to children of color that they will be discriminated against for their skin color.
Proctor added that “there aren’t many resources“ or places you can send a child with these mental health issues to in Michigan.
“They don’t have them. … There are no resources here in Michigan and parents call the police (on their children) and that doesn’t turn out well because kids don’t belong in jail so it’s just a hot mess,” she said.
Proctor said her Foundation is to help bridge the gap between what parents need and what they should know.
“We try to give them resources and tell them where to go,” Proctor said. “We give them a folder and tell them what documents they need.”
Proctor also said that the early years of “this whole autism game” is so stressful for parents. “They don’t know what to do and nobody tells them anything either.”
Proctor added that it seems that systems are in place to “set up for some to win and some to fail.”
“I think there needs to be better clarity shined on eligibility and who it’s for,” she said. “Because parents are literally walking away from resources they don’t know they qualify for. 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.’”