Michelle King-Best, Angie Tolcser-Nunez and Michelle Hinojosa formed the Central Florida Autism Community together.
Three Central Florida moms are working to make resources more accessible to families with children on the autism spectrum.
Horizon West resident Michelle King-Best, Angie Tolcser-Nunez and Michelle Hinojosa met just about two years ago in a More Than Words class by The Hanen Centre. All three of their children, who were under age 3, were recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Like many families and parents with children who are diagnosed, they were struggling to navigate all their options for care.
“Once your kid gets a diagnosis, you are given a lot of information, and you don’t know,” Tolcser-Nunez said. “You feel like you’re drowning in a pool of just information overload.”
So, the three began to lean on one another. They created a Facebook chat where they would compare notes, ask each other questions and even vent when necessary. They realized if they were feeling this way, then other families might, too.
Tolcser-Nunez, King-Best, and Hinojosa started the Central Florida Autism Community Facebook group about two years ago, wanting to provide a space where families with children on the autism spectrum could share resources and have a supportive non-judgmental space to communicate online.
Now, the group has more than 1,300 members. They share anything from information about autism-friendly doctors to experiences in local parks to information on local schooling options.
Members will go to the group with questions about local schools or clubs or any variety of things for their children. Other members can offer feedback on their experiences in response.
Tolcser-Nunez said one of the most important aspects of the group is providing a space for the parents, and even adults with autism, to find support when sharing in their experiences and finding others who understand their struggles and their successes.
“As much as there are resources for the children, the parents are left behind,” Tolcser-Nunez said. “If we’re not at our best, it’s not easy to do (what’s) best for your kid.”
King-Best, Tolcser-Nunez and Hinojosa will chime in on posts along with other members to help out, but if someone goes to them directly, and they don’t know the answer, they will reach out to someone who might.
“It’s not about knowing all the answers, it’s about knowing where to find them,” Tolcser-Nunez said.
The group also serves as a bridge to many other online professional resources for parents and adults with autism. Local organizations such as the Autism Society of Greater Orlando and Autism Society of Florida are shared on the group, and King-Best said it’s an excellent starting point to find other communities.
Moving forward, King-Best said they hope to grow the community, knowing that the more people they reach, the more resources they can find and the more people the group they can help.
“Any advocacy work you do — no matter how small or how big or any step you do — it’s helping however many families that come after you,” King-Best said.