She has six children, and three were diagnosed with autism: her 19-year-old son and her 5-year- old twin boys.
Raising them, and realizing the specific difficulties of that task is what made Henderson-Rucker want to share her experience with people who don’t know much about the condition.
More importantly, she wanted to let other parents of children with autism know that they are not alone in their struggles.
This is what inspired Henderson-Rucker to organize her first autism awareness fashion show fundraiser. The proceeds will all go to the organization Autism Speaks, and the motto of the fundraiser is, “Changing the world one smile at a time.”
“My job as a parent is to help them be the best person they can be,” Henderson-Rucker said. “My job as an advocate is to spread the word and talk to parents who may be in denial, and work with them to get the best treatment they can for their child.”
The fundraiser will take place on Saturday, August 11, at 3 p.m. at Vibe Bar and Restaurant at 143-06 Liberty Avenue in Jamaica.
The event will include 25 models, 12 of whom are children and three of those 12 are autistic themselves. The models are family and friends of Henderson-Rucker who wanted to spread awareness about autism as well.
There will also be face painting, balloons and musical performances by Chris Powell and the Captivating Dance Group. Other sensory-oriented activities will also be directed toward children with autism, with the intention of allowing them to have the best time possible.
“We just want to make it a peaceful day because it’s very stressful for parents with children that have autism,” she said. “All you want to do is see them smile.”
Henderson-Rucker’s long term goal is to open an after-school care center for autistic children to provide them with extra schooling, care and therapy, as well as improve their social skills in group settings.
Another motivation for the program is to give parents with autistic children some peace of mind. Many parents with autism lose their own social life and identity because they become homebodies due to the amount of care that is required for their child.
Henderson-Rucker wants to give them a safe haven for their children, where they can be confident in their well being. The children will be able to be themselves and parents can worry less throughout the work day.
She hopes that this fundraiser will take society, autistic children, and their parents and put them all on the same page.
“I want parents to know it’s okay to be in denial, but you have to put what society says is a normal child aside and realize your child is normal for you,” Henderson-Rucker said. “The community needs awareness, parents need to know there is help out there, and these children should be able to be happy and live normal lives.”