Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Johnston County mom plans social group for teens and young adults with autism

Posted July 12, 2020 8:08 p.m. EDT

Courtesy: Persida Ramos

— As the mom of a child with autism, Persida Ramos understands the hardships they can face, especially as teenagers.

"I know the struggles a teen can face just trying to make friends, especially at a time like this, when they’re even more isolated than normal,” Ramos says. “As social beings, we all need others with whom to share interests, likes and challenges.”

That's why Ramos is launching the first JoCo Social Group for Teens & Young Adults with Autism. The kick-off meeting is set for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 1, at Christ Community United Methodist Church, 1082 Amelia Church Rd. in Clayton. The gathering will take place outside and will follow all health and safety guidelines.

The goal is to provide a safe and fun space for teens and young adults, ages 16 to 24, with autism where they can make friends. Parents and caregivers can drop off or stay at a lounge onsite. Volunteers will help guide activities, which will include a devotional, snacks and games.

Ramos, a mom of two in Smithfield, has served as program coordinator for the Hispanic Ministry at the church for 17 years. Her 19-year-old son, a student at Johnston Community College who hopes to become a linguist, has autism.

I checked in with her to learn more about the social group, which is sponsored and organized by the church's Hispanic ministry. Here's a Q&A. (And to RSVP or ask questions, parents and caregivers should RSVP by calling Ramos at 919-464-1298 or emailing

Go Ask Mom: Tell us about the backstory. Why are you creating the group? What particular challenges do teens and young adults with autism face?

Persida Ramos: Making friends is hard, and it’s even harder for those with autism. It’s heartbreaking to see young people with autism struggle to be accepted for who they are. I wanted to form this group for some time to help my son, and others like him, have a safe place to meet and relate to each other.

While we began plans early in the year, the pandemic affected our launch date. However, all the volunteers felt strongly that teens and young adults with autism would feel more isolated than ever and this group was also more needed than ever. As social beings, we all need others with whom to share interests. We aim to create a safe place for everyone to relax, have fun and make meaningful connections. No one should have to ‘go it alone.’ That is the goal of this social group: companionship.

GAM: What will participants do in the group?

PR: Participants will do ice breakers, play no-contact games, do arts & crafts, have snacks, engage in conversation, etc. When it is safe to do so, we look forward to having special events and outings.

GAM: This first session - and probably others to come - will be socially distanced. How are you making that possible?

PR: The safety of our attendees and volunteers is our first priority. We will observe all CDC and state recommendations. Since people with autism are highly visual, we will have lots of X’s spaced at 6’ throughout our facilities. Sitting arrangements will be strategically placed to promote social distancing as well.

We will use the soccer field next to the church for the meeting. Everyone's temperature will be checked, face coverings will be provided and all materials and food will be disinfected and/or individually wrapped.

GAM: What are your hopes for the group's future?

PR: We hope participants will have fun, feel accepted, connect with others in the area and continue those friendships. We also hope this group will grow!

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