It’s been said that parenting is the hardest job you will ever love. There are all the joys of hugs and seeing the world through a child’s wondrous eyes. There are also all the challenges and worries – for physical health, mental development that will lead to academic and then life success, and the ever-present question “am I doing this parenting thing right?” For families with a special needs child, these concerns are amplified.

Catholic Charities Social Butterflies program was able to assist and guide one mother with her child who is diagnosed with autism. While the child was receiving school district services through Early Childhood Special Education, the parent wanted additional support for parent – child interactions, as those can be complicated for children with an autism diagnosis.

A Family Development Specialist began partnering with the family.  Through individualized monthly activities, the mother began to learn strategies that would increase social-communication, self-regulation, and autonomy, to support the child’s development.  The child began to meet milestones, and the parent’s confidence in her ability soared.  As the support grew with the local school district, Social Butterflies, and increased parent-child interactions at home, the child made significant progress.

In the midst of this journey with Social Butterflies, the mother found inspiration in the words of Mother Teresa, who said, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” The parent saw the truth in these words as she witnessed the positive impact of love and support on her child’s development.

Taking Mother Teresa’s words to heart, the parent dedicated herself to nurturing her child and creating a loving, supportive environment for growth. Through the partnership with Social Butterflies, she learned to embrace her role as a caregiver and advocate for her child, embodying the spirit of love and compassion.

In this process, not only did the child flourish, but the parent also experienced personal growth and empowerment. She became a source of strength for her family, equipped with the tools and knowledge to advocate for their well-being and navigate the complexities of parenting a child.

The ripple effect of this transformation reached beyond their home. The child’s success in meeting educational goals and developmental milestones inspired others to recognize the importance of empathy and understanding when supporting families with special needs or circumstances. Teachers, family members and friends all noted the change in the child. In turn, they have begun to adopt some of the same interaction strategies that made the child’s progress possible.

In this beautiful tapestry of love, support, and growth, the mother’s connection to Mother Teresa’s words deepened. She realized that by spreading love, compassion, and knowledge, she had become an instrument of positive change in her community. In a world that often seemed chaotic and uncertain, she became a symbol of hope, reminding others that even small acts of kindness and understanding can create a profound impact on someone’s life.

And so, the story of this family’s transformation through Social Butterflies stands as a testament to the power of love and support, echoing the words of Mother Teresa and inspiring others to become agents of change in their own communities. Just as butterflies’ flit from flower to flower, bringing joy and beauty wherever they go, this family’s journey became a beacon of hope, illuminating the path for others to follow and make a difference in the lives of those they touch.

 “One thing I absolutely love about my job is collaborating with the parents on best practices for social-emotional development. Seeing the confidence in the child grow each session is incredibly gratifying for all involved.” – Maria Purtle, Family Support Specialist

By Maria Purtle, Family Support Specialist at Catholic Charities of Kansas City- St. Joseph




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