WE ARE THE BLESSED
Members of various groups of people are helping their own, and the autism community is no exception. An effort is underway by Unlocking Autism to help families with ASD kids. That is certainly a worthwhile effort. Another means of helping is to focus on individuals. I want to bring one family in need to your attention.
Sheila Ealey has become my wife’s best friend. Sheila Ealey has become one of my biggest heroes.
Sheila is the type of person it’s easy to love; she never lets adversity get the best of her. She hasn’t let Lupus get the best of her, although it breaks her heart that one of her daughters was recently diagnosed as having Lupus as well. Sheila’s husband, Ron, recently retired from the military, and planned to get a job in the corporate sector in New Orleans. Ron is the most likely candidate one could hope to find for an executive position; he has an M.B.A. and served as a District Comptroller for the Coast Guard. Unfortunately, the economy in New Orleans is such that Ron did not receive any offers, and the Ealeys have been living and trying to raise three kids, two of whom have special needs, on a military pension.
Like so many of us, Sheila and Ron have a son on the spectrum. Sheila faced this challenge as she faced every other challenge in her life. She decided to do something not just for her son, but for all autistic children. Sheila co-founded the Creative Learning Center, a special school with the specific goal of being able to completely transition autistic children into a mainstream environment at the earliest possible age.
Sheila, whose academic background is behavioral psychology, designed a program and curriculum to address the needs of the whole child, relying on teamwork between specially educated and trained teachers and aids working with qualified therapists, psychologists, physicians, and other professionals. The Creative Learning Center was to be one of only four schools in the nation to use the latest behavioral and play therapies, as well as autistic based language therapies. The therapies offered by the school were not the once-or-twice-a-week-if-you’re-lucky routine that we have all come to know with public schools. The children were to have intensive therapy, along with inclusion sessions with neurotypical children, every single day. Sheila struggled to raise funds, she found a host school with the local Catholic Archdiocese, and spent untold hours scrounging, painting, and getting ready.
The Creative Learning Center was to have had its first day of classes this past Monday. Around the same time the first bell was to have rung, Hurricane Katrina was blowing through. We don’t know if the building is still there; when last we heard it was under water.
Sheila and Ron have apparently lost their home. And Sheila worries that she has lost not only the physical site for her school, but also her dream of a school that would help her son and others like him.
This family needs a home. They need a job. Sheila needs help in getting her dream school up and going somewhere -- anywhere.
If you think you can help Sheila and Ron, email me (email@example.com).