Discovering Hope by Setting Aside Pride

Scott Jones, Vice President of WGAF, shares what led him to be apart of the foundation and his passion for autism awareness.

Discovering Hope by Setting Aside Pride

One fall afternoon I arrived at my college Biology class and found everyone standing outside the room looking over notes.  I asked, “What’s everyone doing?” only to find out that they were reviewing notes for the test we had that day. Test? Shock turned to fear and then to the realization that I was totally unprepared and sure to fail.  Luckily, the professor allowed me to take the test the next day and, with a late-night cramming session, I was able to pass the test.

The official diagnoses of my daughter, Ivey, of Autism in 2005 felt very similar.  Not so much shock, she was not acting like other 3-year-old kids and was non-verbal, but fear of not knowing what to do and feeling totally unprepared on how to help her.  So, much like the cramming session, my wife and I started reading everything we could about Autism and were determined to get Ivey the best treatment possible so we could beat this diagnoses.

We were able to get her enrolled in the most advanced program at the time to help kids with Autism and, after maxing out our credit cards in three quick months, we learned the true definition of a ‘Spectrum Disorder’.  The program was not right for Ivey and we had to find the right treatment for her specific needs. It was hard to understand how what worked for one kid didn’t work for another and that we would have to find a solution on our own.  A lonely and helpless feeling that caused frustration and stress, but I was still certain that I could find the solution.

At the time, I was working as a lobbyist for a non-profit organization representing the forest products industry in Georgia at the state capitol.  The two things that I had become good at were public speaking and working with lawmakers to understand the industry and help us when we had concerns.  I felt I could use these skills to help Ivey. I could raise public awareness about Autism and get the state of Georgia to help Ivey and other kids like her.  I was a one-man Autism Army and success was certain.

My first public speaking opportunity was at a Cobb County Rotary Club meeting.  I got about three words out before I broke into tears and was unable to recover.  What was happening? I’ve spoken to groups of over a 1,000, presented at meetings around the country and overseas and testified before Congress.  But, I was unprepared for the rush of emotion of talking about something so personal to me.

The second part was to work with the state to help families with Autism.  Surely, I would be able to succeed here. Again, I was unprepared for the difficulties in getting Ava’s law passed.  Why couldn’t everyone sympathize with the struggles of these families? Reality set in and, after a long struggle and long after my participation, the law was passed.

My wife and I continued to work tirelessly to find the right mix of therapy, medicine and routines to help Ivey.  We are blessed that Ivey is doing so well but it came with a lot of support from our family, church, teachers and most of all my wife.

Through all this I learned that Autism is a complicated diagnosis, and no one can solve their individual or community needs on their own.  We are so fortunate to have national organizations like Autism Speaks working to raise awareness and provide support for families and the rise of local organizations is crucial to provide direct benefit to those around us.

I first met the West Georgia Autism Foundation in October of 2017.  They had a vision of raising awareness and providing direct benefit to families in our community.  WGAF’s vision was something that I could relate to directly. A group of dedicated volunteers that understand the unique needs of every family touched by Autism and pool their talents to work towards a brighter future for us all.  

Fear, uncertainty and frustration are natural emotions in the Autism community that can cripple us if we face them alone.   However, groups like the WGAF provide some of the resources we need so we’re not alone and we can succeed.

Helen Keller summed it up well when she said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”.

Scott P. Jones

Vice President

West Georgia Autism Foundation

WGAF is a 501c3 nonprofit organization