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Committee helps parents, parishes 'learn from each other'


Archdiocese of Boston's Autism Study Committee members Elene and Sam Doucette, with their children Andrew, Zoe and Joseph. Pilot photo/Mark Labbe

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ACTON -- All three of Sam and Elene Doucette's children huddled in the living room of their house in Acton to watch "Star Wars" as their parents sat at the kitchen table to speak to The Pilot.

"There's no owner's manual that comes with being a parent," Sam said, laughing.

"It's incredible, it changes your life," he said, glancing at his children.

Sam and Elene are part of the Archdiocese of Boston's Autism Study Committee, a committee under the Office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity designed to help the office provide better outreach to the community and to draw awareness to autism. Their eldest child, an 8 year old son Joseph, is autistic.

The committee has several members, most of whom also have a child or children with autism.

"I don't even think we've really been listened to like this before," Elene Doucette said of the committee.

Sam Doucette agreed. "That's been one of the biggest things in general, just knowing you're not alone," he said.

He said that when Joseph was younger, he "could barely speak." At around the age of two, he rarely said a word, unlike other children his age. This prompted Elene and Joseph's pediatrician to suspect he had autism, and he was tested and officially diagnosed.

"He's grown a lot," he said.

Elene Doucette noted Joseph also used to have a hard time with clapping at Mass, noting that people with autism are sometimes more affected by loud noises.

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