As a primary caregiver, juggling numerous tasks to provide for her autistic son is Sandra Padilla Zaldo's daily challenge. On a mission to secure more help for herself and other families caring for children with autism, Sandra is using WhatsApp to find unity, support and practical solutions.
Sandra's 10-year-old son Gustavo has severe autism and is sensitive to bright light, loud noises and abrupt changes in routine. With little formal or informal help available, Sandra relies heavily on her virtual network for support.
“Before WhatsApp, my contact with other families and experts was primarily in person — through courses, medical sessions or in hospital. Now, with WhatsApp, I get word of things much faster; I can contact families in real-time via voice or video calls and resolve problems quickly,” she says.
In 2015, Sandra joined 'Mothers of the Center of Autism in Ecatepec,' a WhatsApp group for mothers caring for children with autism. Years on, the group with 132 members from across Mexico is a vital practical and emotional support tool for Sandra. She connects with this group on a daily basis; seeking advice, sharing her own experiences and encouraging solidarity.
“The chat groups make me feel supported – that I am not alone,” says Sandra. “WhatsApp facilitates communication with people beyond my own neighborhood or therapy center.”
Since discovering that WhatsApp group, Sandra has joined seven others. One in particular, where members share insights on how autism is dealt with around the world, inspires her to keep fighting for Gustavo.
“Through these groups, we are learning what people are doing in other countries and finding out how to help promote mental health in Mexico. WhatsApp has improved our situation significantly; access to help is more practical and immediate,” says Sandra.
Caring for Gustavo is Sandra's number one priority, but it can often be a lonely and arduous struggle. WhatsApp is helping to eliminate this sense of isolation by helping Sandra develop the meaningful and personal connections she says are vital to building a life full of positive opportunities and experiences for her son.