Monday, December 29, 2008

Paralegals Use Strength, Skills to Raise Autistic Children

After finally learning that it was autism that left her son speechless, Rose Morreale, a paralegal, turned her researching skills and "steely Sicilian determination" to creating a future for her boy. At first, she quit her job to immerse herself in caring for her son, but eight years later, she returned to work. (Source: Buffalo News.)

Morreale is not the only paralegal whose child struggles with autism. Suzann Deskin, a paralegal formerly with the Asset Forfeiture Division, U.S. Attorney's Office, Little Rock, Arkansas, has a 15-year-old son with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism. Deskin is a strong woman who has never given up on her son and has raised him into a young man that functions well in school and is a basketball fanatic. He also excels at CAD drawing, and Deskin hopes that he will attend college. Payton struggles with social skills, but Deskin's patience enables her to teach him the basics - like not announcing that the man in line in front of you is wearing an ugly hat.

But if one autistic child is challenging, imagine having three! Janet Powell, a senior paralegal and project manager in the Miami, Florida office of a national labor and employment law firm, is raising four children, three of whom are autistic. Logan, 18, is a high-functioning autistic who is being trained to work in a marine environment through the Miami-Dade County Public School System's partnership with Miami's Shake a Leg Program. As part of the program, Logan pressure-cleans docks and helps clean the boats docked at the marina, and he assists in the marine trade school run by the program. He goes boating often and is learning marine navigation and understanding environmental issues, according to Powell. Katy, 7, is a very high-functioning autistic, and Powell describes her as "a come from behind break-out sort of kid." Dallas, 5, has a profound language delay and was very recently diagnosed as autistic.

"The good project management skills I use as a paralegal have really helped me in personal life to pace myself out so that I can establish priorities and accomplish at least some of the things I would like to do on the short term, and work toward other things in time," said Powell in an email interview. "This helps me avoid feeling victimized."

The amazing strength of these mothers is a true inspiration, and it is heartening to see such strong women working in the profession.

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