Putting people together and fundraising may be one of my sister's best talents. She found strength in a support group when she first heard James' diagnosis. Now, she runs one out of her own home.
"I found this group about six or seven years ago and it has become a lifeline for me," June Adelsberger, the mother of an autistic child, said.
Another parent seconded the sentiment.
"We always have to, amongst each other, get the message out there, that they are just a little bit different," Scott Campbell said.
Patty Ratliffe finds understanding.
"Some of the things that our kids do, you don't necessarily want to go to the other neighborhood moms because they can't relate," she said.
But, for my sister, support isn't enough. She wants change, so she lobbies the Virginia State Capitol for more autism programs.
As James grows older, she grows more concerned. What will happen to aging autistic children and their parents? Where will James go when he turns 21, and ages out of school programs?
James is not alone. His is a dilemma facing an estimated 730,000 people who are under campbell and autistic.
Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, has been a great ally of Teresa's.
She has sponsored legislation on behalf of Virginia's autistic population.
My sister realizes that her advocacy will help many people.
"If I can do that and help other families, that's the whole point of this," she said. "So someone else does not have to go through what I've gone through."
Once again, my sister is on the frontlines. She's committed to her crusade -- not only for her own family, but for the families of the 26,000 children now being born each year with autism.
My sister Teresa is my true inspiration. I think she can change the world.
Here are links to autism resources Web sites:
Autism Speaks, a national awareness and advocacy foundation.
Directory of autism programs across the country, compiled by the Yale School of Medicine, Yale Child Study Center.
Simple Changes, a therapeutic riding center in Virginia.
Springfield Challenger, a little league program in Virginia that's geared towards children with special needs.
Organization for Autism Research, a national organization that funds research and studies into issues affecting the autism community.
The Autism Research Institute, a San Diego-based organization that funds research into proven treatments to correct the root causes of autism.
Talk About Curing Autism, an organization that provides information, resources and support to families affected by autism.
The National Autism Association, an organization that provides education for those families affected by autism and other neurological disorders, and advocacy for those who have those disorders.
Autism Society, a national grassroots organization that provides autism awareness and advocacy as well as information about education, treatment and research.
<a href="http://virginiaautismproject.com/" target="external">Virginia Autism Project, is a non-profit organization that works with state and local officials on issues that impact people with autism.