Defying the Odds of Autism: A Mother-Daughter Team Take on the Challenge

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By Shannon M. Trigos

Campbellsville University has accepted Hannah DeForrest, a 20-year-old girl with autism, of Ekron, Kentucky.  Professionals told Hannah’s mother, Marlene DeForrest, that Hannah would never be able to keep up in a regular classroom. Now she is in her second year of college, achieving goals like every other student.

From attending public school, to getting her driver’s license and holding a job, DeForrest, with her mother’s support, is excelling.

DeForrest began to break the mold of autism at an early age. She was home-schooled after being told she would never keep up in a regular classroom. DeForrest re-enrolled in public school in sixth grade.

“The first couple of days were kind of nerve-racking, but after that I was fine,” DeForrest said. Learning to communicate has been one of the key elements to DeForrest’s success.

“It can be difficult,” Marlene DeForrest said, “because she tends to be misunderstood a lot. Her professors at the college expect her to communicate like any other student.”

Marlene DeForrest, author of blog, “My Hope for Autism,” writes to raise awareness and support for those struggling with autism. When Hannah DeForrest originally received her diagnosis, it was strongly advised to place her in a home. Her parents would not, even after a head pediatrician told them to consider the whole family, because children with autism tend to eat families alive.

“I can tell you that the divorce rate in couples that have children with autism is much higher,” Marlene DeForrest said, “but there are not just negative things to focus on.”

The positives to this story far outweigh the negatives. Hannah DeForrest not only has her license, but holds a job, attends college at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College and has now been accepted to Campbellsville University to finish her studies.

“It’s not a common thing,” says Marlene DeForrest, “when you take into consideration the severity of autism.” Marlene earned her Bachelors in psychology with a focus in autism after learning her daughter’s diagnosis. Marlene has published many papers and presented the research at several conventions. She recognizes the significance of her daughter Hannah’s achievements.

According to Hannah and Marlene DeForrest, communication and Applied Behavior Analysis are essential to overcoming obstacles in autism.

“We are in the process of trying to set up an Applied Behavior Analysis demonstration at the next support group meeting and record it so we can put it on my blog,” said Marlene DeForrest.

The support group is held monthly at the Meade County School District, and has led Marlene DeForrest to start her own life group at church for parents of kids with disabilities. She says this is partly because the state of Kentucky has a ten year waiting list for supporting uninsured families struggling with autism.

“It’s an incredible situation,” Marlene DeForrest said, “How do you tell a mom, I can help you in ten years?”

Now as a mother-daughter team, the two DeForrests are offering support to those who need it most, and are forging a new path in the world of autism.



  1. // Reply

    How beautifully done and well written.

  2. // Reply

    When I first read it, Shannon was waiting for me to call her and let her know what I thought of it, but I had to stop crying first. When I finally called, she said she was worried that I didn’t like it. I was completely blown away by it!

  3. // Reply

    Shannon has no idea how awesome she is, does she?

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