Life's Little Blessings

Shelly Sawyer of Benton is a stay-at-home mom and caregiver to 4-year-old CoCo. The pair discovers new ways, with the help of Arkansas Therapy Outreach, to help CoCo thrive, learn and grow.

By Amy Gordy


SHELLY SAWYER: I have two children, Bo Sawyer, 21, and CoCo Sawyer, 4.

WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSION? I was a nail technician for 14 years. I am currently a stay-at-home mom to CoCo.

WHAT IS YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIKE? Taking care of the household, working with CoCo using therapy techniques acquired from books, the internet, Arkansas Therapy Outreach and trial-and-error techniques.

YOUR DAUGHTER WAS DIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM. WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO GET HER DIAGNOSIS? The diagnosis was devastating. It was an emotional roller coaster of anger, sadness, depression and even jealousy of neuro-typical children.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER FAMILIES WHO RECEIVE A SIMILAR DIAGNOSIS FOR A CHILD? You are not alone. Your emotions wil level out, and the intense day-to-day struggles you face dealing with a toddler with autism isn’t forever. In time, your child learns to cope—something that isn’t possible at the age of 2 or 3.

WHAT ARE SOME OBSTACLES YOU HAVE FACED AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME THEM? My husband works out-of-state because of higher pay and better insurance. Much of CoCo’s treatment is biomedical, therefore not covered by any insurance. It is a tough job being sole caregiver, but it’s also a “do whatever you have to do” situation to ensure she succeeds. Our family motto is: Sacrifices now will pay off later.

DESCRIBE THE CARE AND SUPPORT YOU HAVE RECEIVED AT ARKANSAS THERAPY OUTREACH. HOW HAVE THEY BEEN ESSENTIAL TO YOUR CHILD’S PROGRESS? What Arkansas Therapy Outreach means to my family and me cannot be put into words. CoCo would not be where she is today without her therapists. In less than a year, she has made unbelievable strides intellectually and emotionally because of her therapists and her medical doctor working together, along with a gluten/casein-free diet and biomedical treatment, including vitamins and supplements. We are all very excited to see what CoCo will accomplish!

WHAT IS YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM LIKE? My support system is my sister, my son, CoCo’s speech pathologist and my husband. Although he cannot be hands-on, my husband lends emotional support by telephone everyday.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A MOM? Seeing the therapy and hard work pay off when CoCo has communication breakthroughs, and then enjoying the little things like spending every day together just having fun.

WHAT MAKES YOUR CHILD AMAZING? CoCo has a great sense of humor. She loves to laugh. She is intelligent, rambunctious, persistent and feisty, but best of all she is sweet and loving. WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO AS A FAMILY? We love to play outside with CoCo at home or at the park. We enjoy going to McDonald’s PlayPlace with her friends, and we like watching movies occasionally.

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR STORY? Children with autism are special little blessings. Each child is individually unique, with a wonderful gift to offer the world!

For more information on Arkansas Therapy Outreach visit