Frontdoors Magazine April 2019 Issue

Page 16

CAREY’S CORNER {carey peña reports}

FINDING HER FIRST PLACE Denise Resnik advocates for adults with autism

Carey Peña | Contributing Writer

“WHEN YOU ARE IN YOUR DARKEST MOMENTS, THERE IS LIKELY SOMEONE OUT THERE SHARING THOSE SAME MOMENTS WITH YOU.” When Denise Resnik’s son Matthew was 2 years old, his family was given a devastating diagnosis. “We were told to love, accept and plan to institutionalize our son.” Matthew had autism. At that time, 27 years ago, Resnik explained, autism was being diagnosed in 1 in 2,500 children. Today it is 1 in 59. “I did feel sorry for myself at first,” Resnik said with emotion. “I was sad. I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know what to do. I remember finding Matthew one early morning in the closet by himself, this little boy, and I remember getting in there with him and thinking … I don’t know if I want to come out of this closet today either. It was really hard.” In that moment, Resnik became a crusader. “We didn’t really know where to turn for help, so we turned to each other. We turned to other mothers and fathers and started a parent support group. And that was good for a while but we needed 16  FRONTDOORS MEDIA | APRIL 2019

to do more. That’s when we formed SARRC in 1997.” The Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center known as SARRC is an internationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to autism research, education, evidence-based treatment and community outreach. According to their website, they are “one of the only autism organizations in the world that provides a lifetime of services for individuals and their families while also conducting cutting-edge research.” Resnik’s son Matthew has what she describes as classic autism. He struggles with both receptive and expressive communication, but she says, “He is super-smart and a hardworking man.” While Matthew always had a dedicated support system, Resnik and her husband worried about what would happen when he became an adult. In the days and weeks after he was diagnosed, she visited some of the institutions that were recommended to her. It haunts her to this day. “I will never forget what I saw, what I smelled, how

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