When Davina Drakely-Lever's son, Alwyn, was 18 months old, he wasn't talking.
"That seemed odd to me, so I talked to the pediatrician about it," she said.
Since they live in North Augusta, he qualified for BabyNet, an early intervention system in South Carolina that provides services for children younger than 3 who have developmental delays or conditions that are connected to developmental delays.
When he turned 3, Alwyn was taken to North Augusta Elementary School and began speech and occupational therapy, and later adaptive behavior therapy. A few months after starting school, a developmental pediatrician diagnosed him with severe autism, she said.
Alwyn, now 5, continues to receive adaptive, speech and occupational therapy and participates in therapeutic horse riding.
"Looking back, with what I know now, there were signs there that I didn't pick up on or didn't think much of. I've been in pediatrics for 15 years and I have worked with children with autism on a medical level," said Drakely-Lever, who is a registered nurse in the pediatric emergency department at Medical College of Georgia Hospital.
"His oddities, I would just say 'Oh, it's just him.' It was hard for me to accept. Every child is different, and what I had witnessed with other children, I didn't see those things with my own child."
Over the past couple of years, she has met many parents of children with autism spectrum disorders. Many have questions about the disorder and treatments; some have concerns about their child's progress; and others have had trouble coming to terms with the diagnosis, she said.
Due to her profession and where she's employed, she felt she was in a unique position to not only bring those parents together to share their experiences but also provide a place where they could get their questions answered and receive information, she said.
Drakely-Lever and Dr. Caroline DiBattisto, a developmental behavioral pediatrician, organized an Autism Spectrum Disorder Support and Resource Group. The group, also called the A-Team, will have its first meeting Tuesday at the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center.
The resources and information shared during the meetings will be evidence-based, said Dr. DiBattisto, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at MCG.
"There are a lot of new treatments out there and many times, there's a question as to whether they work or not and if it's right for the child," she said. "We want to help families by giving them educational information on what does work and what may be helpful for their family."
The group is open to the public and will meet the first Tuesday of each month. For more information, call (706) 721-5160.