Limited resources inspires suburban mom with special needs son to start community organization

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and that is the inspiration for one Chicago mother who needed help and decided she probably wasn't alone.

Now she's spreading knowledge and providing support for an entire community.

It's the story of a family that just grew frustrated. They were simply trying to do the best they could for their autistic son and the results they got were bigger than they could have ever have imagined.

There is an unbelievable bond between Debra Vines and her son Jason.

"I can't put it into words because when I think about him my heart just smiles because he knows nothing but love," Vines said.

Jason was diagnosed with autism when he was just 18-months-old. At the time, Debra and her late husband were lost and looking for help near their home in Forest Park.

"I didn't know anybody that had any special needs children at all," Vines said, "and so I just looked and looked and couldn't find anything and this happened for 10 years. [There were] just a few things but we had to go way out of our community."

That's how The Answer, Inc. was born. It's a non-profit providing resources and support for families dealing with special needs, especially on the West Side and western suburbs. They've been advocating for people affected by developmental disabilities since 2007.

"In under served communities, especially black and brown communities, the resources are very limited," Vines said. "Our families don't get our children diagnosed as early as they should and so by the time they get diagnosed, sometimes, I'm not going to say it's too late, but it's a lot more challenging."

Through her family struggles blossomed an organization that provides not only education and recreation, but also a shoulder to lean on.

"Here's the thing... I have friends that love me, love me deeply, but they don't understand what I go through," she said, "but when I have that conversation with another special needs mom, 'let me tell you what so-and-so-did,' we have that synergy."

The beauty behind it all is that this all started with one mother's love for her own autistic son.

"I want to show the community and other parents that you don't have to be ashamed of your special needs child. Yes he acts out and sometimes he does particular things, but he's mine and I want to show the community that autism does not hurt," Vines said.
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