A year ago, Precious Singleton Alexander learned her then 3-year-old son, Rio, has autism.
“I started pulling my boots up, researching, finding out different things that would help me understand it,” Alexander said.
The more she learned, the more she wanted to help others in her situation do the same. On April 30, she saw her desire to do just that come to fruition, as several families gathered in Luling for an “Autism Acceptance Bubbles and Balloon Bash” where attendees were encouraged to wear any color of the rainbow on the final day of Autism Acceptance Month.
“With my baby and I, me being new to the diagnosis, I asked myself, ‘How can I advocate for my child and children like him?’” said Alexander. “So let me pray on it. Let me manifest, before I make any plans. I gave it to the universe, I gave it to God, and boom, it hit me.”
She determined she would create an event for children, teens and adults on the spectrum to come together in a fun, safe environment, while parents could likewise unite and network with one another.
“It’s something where we can meet each other, talk, vent, share ideas, whatever anyone needs,” Alexander said. “To come together as one. We’re all learning. I’m still learning. This is to raise more awareness, and here we are today.”
The event saw the children able to release balloons into the sky, blow bubbles – and chase them, of course – while playing together.
Singleton said when she learned of Rio’s diagnosis, it didn’t come as a shock.
“At age 2, 2 and a half, I started to see the signs and traits, the characteristics of being on the spectrum,” she said. “I noticed how he was playing with certain toys, not making eye contact … I did the research, put it all in and what do you know, they popped up as the symptoms. So, when the diagnosis came back, it wasn’t a surprise.”
But it has been an adjustment.
“It’s been quite a ride. And just to know that it’s going to continue until he’s an adult, I’m trying to prepare myself mentally for that long haul,” Alexander said. “It’s been tough, but rewarding. He’s teaching me a lot, teaching me about patience, teaching me to be humble and to have compassion.”
It’s Alexander’s hope that Saturday’s event will blossom into something that can help families going forward on a regular basis.
“I want to start a support group, a whole River Parishes support group,” she said. “I would love for this event to be something we do annually. And for a support group, something where we can all get together certain days and talk … maybe there’s a resource you know about, but I don’t know about. Things like that … I don’t want this to end. I want it to keep going, because it’s every day for me, and it’s every day for parents who have children, teens, adults on the spectrum.
“I feel like we can motivate each other, encourage each other and support each other.”
Families traveled as far as Terrebonne and Baton Rouge Parish to attend, and the children enjoyed the day of fun.
“When I asked O’Livia Plaissance if she wanted a sticker and if she was having fun, she replied , ‘Yes please! this is the best day of my life!’ Alexander said. “And that just simply took my heart.”
Dwayne LaGrange, a friend of Alexander’s family – her father, Glenn, is someone LaGrange credits as a longtime mentor – said Alexander has already made a positive impact through the event.
“Precious is a young lady who’s really been vibrant in this community and really wants to do things to help the community.
“I know society struggles with the acceptance and inclusion (of those with autism) and we want to make sure we bring awareness … when we show love for them, I think it makes their day a whole lot better. You can see these kids out here today … we take things for granted sometimes, and I think it’s important for us to take a step back and realize that sometimes, others may need a little more help and we need to catch them when they fall, and help them get back up.”