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Mom strives to help others with special-needs kids
Son diagnosed with autism 3 years ago
Autism Awareness picture
James Rountree, front and center, diagnosed in 2011 with Autism Spectrum Disorder, had the opportunity to meet Paula Deen last fall to thank her for sending the profits of his mom's homemade pralines to the Autism Foundation of Georgia. Others photographed are, from left, Michael Deen, Joel Rountree, Paula Deen, Jamie Deen, Azure Rountree, Bobby Deen and Bubba Deen. - photo by Special

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To find out more about autism, go to For more information on the Mother and Son Luau or the support group, email

When her second child, James, was born, Azure Rountree knew something was different. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but James' actions and responses in those early months and first couple of years didn't coincide with her firstborn's early days.

Questions, research and appointments with professionals eventually led Rountree and her husband, Joel, to a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder for James in April 2011.

Hugely important for children with autism, said Azure Rountree, is early intervention.

"The day James turned 3, he started in the autism program at Mattie Lively Elementary School," she said. "He made excellent progress because of the services he's received through the program, along with speech therapy received from The Therapy SPOT."

Rountree said that when James was first diagnosed, she felt lost and questioned what she should do next. She realized that knowledge was the key, and she turned to professional help for James and did as much research as possible.

While struggling to find her way through the maze of autism, Rountree felt strongly about helping others with a similar diagnosis. She decided to start a support group for parents with special-needs children.

"‘Community Support Group for Parents with Children with Special Needs' meets the first Tuesday of each month, at 7 p.m., at the Honey Bowen Building," she said. "When James was diagnosed, I needed support and resources. We meet monthly to give each other that support and supply the resources to get through this together."

Rountree points out that something as small as learning to tie shoes is huge for special-needs children.
"One of the most important things for parents of children with autism is celebrating their accomplishments, no matter how big or small," she said. "In my home, we call them ‘little victories,' and we're thankful for each and every one."

Rountree has two other "victories" she likes to celebrate in relation to autism awareness. For the third year, she will host a Mother and Son Luau, with all proceeds going to the special needs program in Bulloch County Schools. This year's event is June 7.

And, in less than a year's time, Rountree's homemade pralines, sold at Paula Deen's retail store in Savannah, have raised more than $5,000 for the Autism Foundation of Georgia.

Rountree shared the statistic that one in approximately 80 children is diagnosed with autism each year in the United States.

And with little victories, luaus, pralines, support group meetings and a lot of love, Rountree spends more than just the month of April in autism awareness mode.

This article first appeared in the April edition of Moments Magazine, a monthly publication of the Statesboro Herald.


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