RPCC student, mom passionate about Autism Awareness

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 28, 2010

SORRENTO — The Gonzales City Council passed a proclamation declaring April to be “Autism Awareness Month” in the city of Gonzales, at its regularly scheduled meeting. The council also awarded to “key to the city” to Cohen Swain.

Swain, 4, is the son of River Parishes Community College student Krystal Swain. He was diagnosed with autism at an early age.

When RPCC student Krystal Swain was told her oldest son had autism, she had no idea what to do next. She was informed of the diagnosis and then left to fend for herself.

Like any good mother, she set out to learn as much as she could about the condition that had affected her child. One of the first things she learned was that there were no resource centers or many other information sources for parents of autistic children in the Baton Rouge area.

“I was basically handed a sheet of paper and told, ‘Your son has autism, here’s an information sheet, good luck with that.’” said Swain. “I felt like there was no place I could turn for support, or even information.”

Instead of resigning herself to those circumstances, Swain

decided to act. As well as learning everything she could about

autism and autistic children, she began to organize a charitable event, an autism walk, to raise awareness in the Baton Rouge community.

When her plans were under way, she caught the attention of Families Helping Families of Greater Baton Rouge. That organization helps

families of children with disabilities by providing much-needed resources, such as information

and assistance. It is directed and staffed by parents or family members of children or adults with


Those efforts to organize soon became the Inaugural Greater

Baton Rouge Autism Awareness Walk. More than 1,500 walkers

participated in the walk along Goodwood Boulevard, raising more than $45,000. That money will be used to fund and maintain the

area’s first autism resource center at the Families Helping Families building in Baton Rouge.

“We called this inaugural because this will be an annual event. The turnout was outstanding this year,” said Swain. “The people of this area really came out and showed their support. We really do live in one of the most generous areas of the country.”