Have you ever felt overwhelmed while caring for your child with disabilities? Is it difficult to find others who are in the same situation and understand and can lend support and strategies for how to cope?

As part of Tomorrow’s Voices events celebrating Autism Awareness Month in April, the organization is hosting a special workshop and panel discussion tomorrow (Wednesday, April 19).

“Behind the Scenes: A Parent’s Perspective” will offer support, strategies and the advice from parents who have been through the same struggles and triumphs.

However, while the training seminar will focus on parents of children with autism, the event is relevant to all parents and caregivers of children with special needs. The event is also perfect for teachers and health professionals, as participants will gain insight that will help them in working with these specials students in their classrooms or in other settings.

“Many people often underestimate the commitment required by families to help their children become the best they can be,” explained Thea Furbert, Tomorrow’s Voices co-founder and board chairman. “Parents play an essential role in their care and development, and work every day to overcome the challenges such as communication problems, sensory issues, challenging behaviours, daily family life and often the immense pressure placed on them from society.”

The event will feature international guest speaker Lorri Unumb, vice president, state government affairs for Autism Speaks, whose first son was diagnosed with autism.

Following the diagnosis, Mrs Unumb began working in autism advocacy as a volunteer, writing ground-breaking autism insurance legislation for South Carolina (“Ryan’s Law”) that passed in 2007 and served as the catalyst for the national movement toward autism insurance reform. In recognition of Ryan’s Law, Mrs Unumb was awarded the Autism Society of America 2008 “Parents of the Year” award (along with her husband Dan). The New York-based non-profit Autism Speaks then recruited her and she now advocates full-time on behalf of individuals with autism. As head of state government affairs, she has testified more than 100 times on health insurance issues in legislatures around the US.

Autism Speaks is one of the largest autism advocacy organisations in the world. It is dedicated to promoting solutions for the needs of individuals with autism through advocacy and support including a large database of information to support families of children with autism. Autism Speaks also works hard to increase understanding and acceptance of autism as well as provide funding to advance research into the causes and better interventions for autism.

As well as advocating through Autism Speaks, Mrs Unumb and her husband also founded the Autism Academy of South Carolina, a non-profit, year-round treatment centre for children with autism. The husband and wife team also wrote “Autism and the Law”, the first-ever comprehensive textbook on legal issues related to autism. Her work has been profiled on CNN, NPRs “Morning Edition”, and in Town & Country magazine. She received one of three “Women Who Make a Difference” awards in 2009 from the magazine, and she is also profiled in the American Academy of Pediatrics 2013 book, “Autism Spectrum Disorders: What Every Parent Needs to Know”.

Local parents, including Dr Wendy Young, Manielle Fox and Neil MacGuinness, will also share their experiences raising children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Although autism is characterized by difficulties in communication and social interactions, those with the developmental disorder have a range of needs because of the great diversity of how it affects each individual.

Dr Young brings to the panel discussion her struggles with her daughter’s diagnoses with autism. A university lecturer, therapist and social worker, she will bring her perspective on raising a teenager with autism and speak openly on the struggles she has had with meeting the needs of her child with special needs.

Mr MacGuinness, a father of two, will bring a father’s viewpoint on raising a son with specific needs and the crucial role fathers play in supporting and advocating for their children. He will also provide insight into the challenges and triumphs they have faced as a family from diagnosis to treatment and all the stages in between.

For Manielle Fox, her youngest son Aaron, 4, was diagnosed at the age of two with autism. She has found that her close family and friends have provided support and she will speak about their experience with her son’s diagnosis and how the therapy and support from Tomorrow’s Voices has helped her family.

“Behind the Scenes: A Parent’s Perspective” will take place tomorrow from 6.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. at Bermuda College.

The cost is $30 and participants are asked to register by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 297-4342.

Attendees will receive a professional development certificate on completion of the workshop. The evening will begin with networking and refreshments and there will be information booths set up with local affiliate health and education organizations, including Tomorrow’s Voices, Child Development Programme, Child and Adolescent Services, ABC Speech-Language Pathology Services, BASE and The Learning World, providing information for attendees.

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