WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio — Autism can be a very scary word, especially for parents and families thrust into that world with the new diagnosis of a child.
Nearly 20 years ago, two moms created an organization to help families living on the spectrum, and now the hard work of those mothers has created a better land for hundreds of families each year.
Meeting 17-year-old Cora Gedeon is like meeting a ray of sunshine.
Gedeon loves cheerleading, fashion, puzzles, and running but she is not your typical teenager.
“Just her putting together that puzzle it would take me days. It's probably going to take her hours to finish it because she just has that visual skill to look at it as a whole and patience,” says Carrie Gedeon, Cora’s mother.
At the age of three, Cora Gedeon was diagnosed with autism.
“Very emotional at the time. It was a rough, rough time,” said Carrie Gedeon.
The Gedeons were immediately referred to Milestones Autism Resources.
“All autistic individuals have the commonality of challenges with communication, behavior, social skills, as well as sensory processing,” said Milestones Co-Founder and Executive Director, Ilana Hoffer Skoff.
Milestones was created right here in Northeast Ohio, nearly 20 years ago, putting together a mountain of resources and referrals to help families learn and navigate life on the spectrum.
Hoffer Skoff says Milestones was born, after her own daughter, was diagnosed with autism.
“She was just not learning the way other kids typically learn and I was searching for the key to unlock her potential. We really didn’t know where to turn,” said Hoffer Skoff.
The organization is known for its signature conference which attracts experts and families from all over the country.
“We met other parents who had gone through this before us so we could learn from them. We could hear their stories,” said Carrie Gedeon.
The Gedeons have been working with milestones for 14 years now, as they map out a future for Cora Gedeon.
“We’re able to see the strengths and not just the challenges. I see her living as independently as possible. I see her working in the community,” said Carrie Gedeon.
When asked about her future, Cora Gedeon says, “When I’m an adult, I want to work at a store.” The teen says she wants to work at Kohls.
Her mother says, “Milestones has been the biggest resource to Mike and I, my husband and I. Probably more so for us, than Cora because it’s prepared us, to prepare her.”
Milestones is in the midst of its virtual conference celebrating 20 years, June 15-16.
Thursday morning, News 5’s Courtney Gousman will be moderating a session that focuses on “Autism in Black.”
To join in on the conversation, or for more information about how to connect with Milestones, click here.
This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.