Fort Worth group aims to support Hispanic mothers of children with autism

dfwnewsa | January 18, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Fort Worth group aims to support Hispanic mothers of children with autism

Jannett Ruiz, left, and Adriana Carvajal, co-founders of Pláticas AzulesFW, listen to members of their support group at Casa Azul Coffee on Jan. 11. (David Moreno | Fort Worth Report)
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Walking into Casa Azul Coffee on Jan. 11, Jannett Ruiz and Adriana Carvajal made their way to a group of tables by the windows. 

The women sat down with their coffees and waited for their fellow moms to arrive. 

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Ruiz and Carvajal are co-founders of Pláticas AzulesFW, a Facebook group for Hispanic mothers in Fort Worth who have children with autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disabilities. 

What is autism spectrum disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others. It also affects how they communicate, learn and behave. 

Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it generally appears in the first 2 years of life. The abilities of people with autism can vary significantly.

(Source | National Institute of Mental Health)

As it hit 9 a.m., other group members arrived one by one — six in total that day.

The mothers exchanged greetings in Spanish and asked each other about the holidays. Soon, the conversation turned to the start of the school semester. 

The group discussed the frustrating difficulties they have faced in receiving accommodations for their children with autism. 

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Ruiz, who has two children with autism, shared how she advocated for her children’s needs and expectations by calling an admission, review, and dismissal meeting. The ARD allows teachers and school support staff to meet with parents to discuss their children’s needs, abilities and expectations. Ruiz was able to make the changes for her children. 

“I started out the school year really bumpy, because the school was not all that accommodating,” she said. “I regrouped with the principal and asked, ‘How can we fix things?’” 

One mother in attendance that day was grateful for Ruiz’s advice and walked away ready to involve herself in her son’s school a bit more. 

For Ruiz, being able to share her experiences with other mothers is why Pláticas AzulesFW was founded. It’s about offering support and exchanging ideas and resources, she said. 

Members of the Pláticas AzulesFW Facebook group meet at Casa Azul on Jan. 11. The mothers, who all have children with autism or intellectual disabilities, exchange advice on handling their children’s education and advocating for them. (David Moreno | Fort Worth Report)

The Facebook group was created by Ruiz and Carvajal in August 2023. The two have been friends for years, but reconnected after their children were diagnosed with autism. They were inspired to launch the support group after feeling there was a cultural divide between them and other Fort Worth groups for moms of children with autism. 

“We were part of other groups, but we had these things missing where they didn’t have the language and Hispanic community,” said Carvajal. “Other groups are awesome, but sometimes the information was not in Spanish.”

The co-founders also thought it was important to narrow their focus since autism and intellectual disabilities aren’t always openly discussed within Hispanic communities.

“Autism has always existed, but unfortunately in Hispanic and Latin American communities, it’s not talked about much,” said Carvajal. “It’s pride. It’s the pride of ‘My child doesn’t have anything wrong.’ When people start to accept the diagnosis, it opens up doors. It’s also about accepting help from other people.”

One in 36 8-year-olds have been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 2023 findings are higher than the 2018 analysis, which found that 1 in 44 children had the disorder. 

Autism is now being diagnosed more frequently in Black and Hispanic children than white children in the U.S., according to the CDC. 

Since its launch, Pláticas AzulesFW has grown to over 130 members in Tarrant County. Most of the outreach has been through word of mouth, said Ruiz. 

“When we started the Facebook group, I told Adriana if we have 10 moms, then that’s OK,” she said. “Within the first week, we had 20 and it keeps growing.” 

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Interested in learning more about Pláticas AzulesFW?

Contact Jannett Ruiz or Adriana Carvajal via email at platicasazulesFW@gmail.com.

This year, Ruiz and Carvajal are hoping to launch Spanish-language workshops and invite financial and health experts to speak to the group. 

“It’s very different from having a professional translator than hearing from us,” said Carvajal. “Yes, we’re bilingual, but it’s not the same as (being) opposed to hearing from experts.” 

The co-founders also want the husbands of group members to be more involved in Pláticas AzulesFW and share their experiences. 

“One of my biggest goals is to start developing a dad side to the group, because we know they need it, too,” Ruiz said. “It might take them a little longer to catch on, but hopefully, they do.” 

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. 

David Moreno is the health reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact him at david.moreno@fortworthreport.org or @davidmreports on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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