When Kathy Gosselin’s son Robert, 9, was diagnosed with autism, the Boynton Beach mother reached out for information on therapy groups and resources to help her through the tough transition.
She discovered that new methods of motivating autistic children were out there but were not covered by insurance. For example, she wanted to get her son a therapy dog after the family dog Buddy was put to sleep.
“We found one organization out of Jacksonville but the dog costs $10,000,” she said.
Gosselin started fundraising through garage sales and an event at the local Bru’s Room Sports Grill. Within two months, she had enough money to get her son a therapy dog.
She didn’t stop there and when Florida Atlantic University went through budget cuts, support groups for parents with autistic children were cut as well.
While sitting at her kitchen table last July she came up with the idea for Autistic Children Count.
“I said, ‘I think I’m going to be the person that can start a foundation for unconventional types of therapy like horseback riding or support groups with child care,’” she said.
The goal of the new organization is to help parents who find out their child is autistic but don’t know where to turn.
Robert’s new dog Archer is a Golden White Retriever, a friend he has already taken to Disney World and on the Thunder Mountain ride.
“We have a parent support group with 10 regular people,” she said. “We have 12 kids on a regular basis do our outings like fishing, a therapeutic dolphin swim, we have a movie night plan and even a resource fair.”
The group is new and looking to partner with any local organization that wants to help.
Stephanie Raab met Gosselin through a friend and is the director of development at Oakstone Academy Palm Beach in Lake Worth.
Forty percent of the recently opened school’s students have autism spectrum disorders.
Raab’s son Jakob is also on that spectrum and the school utilizes the social emersion model in which children with autism can mix in a class with peers that don’t have the condition.
More than 25 students have already signed up for the new school, which is a nonprofit private academy.
“She is a warrior mother,” Raab said of Gosselin. “She is an inspiration to others like myself.”
Raab said Autistic Children Count gives parents an environment in which to get support, connect, form a network and work together.