For local author Julie Hornok, serving her community of moms is vital to her mission of inspiring parents who are raising children with autism. That's why winning the Mom’s Choice Gold Award for her book “United in Autism: Finding Strength Inside the Spectrum” means so much.
Hornok was inspired to write her 2018 book after being struck by the lack of resources for parents of children with autism. Hornok spent years conducting therapy sessions with her daughter Lizzie after her diagnosis at age 2.
“I had a good group of moms that I had met that were supportive and kind of guiding me, but even with that and all the support I had from a wonderful family and wonderful friends, it was just extremely overwhelming,” Hornok said.
Hornok began putting events together for local moms in 2011 to give them a day to decompress and meet other parents who have children with autism. “There were no sales, there wasn’t anything more than just loving on the moms and letting them have a day off,” Hornok said.
Each year, Hornok gifted a book to the moms to take home with them after the event. But she was struck by the lack of books available for parents raising children with autism. Instead of giving up, Hornok decided to write her own.
Hornok used Plano’s school system to meet with parents who had friends and families from around the world with stories to share.
“We would get on Skype or even do it through Facebook Messenger sometimes," Hornok said. "We would sit there and we’d start with full understanding of each other’s lives."
By gathering 30 stories, Hornok was able to achieve a global perspective on a familiar situation.
“Each story is something that an autism mom or special needs mom can easily pick up and hide in the bathroom while they’re eating Oreos and have a minute to themselves where they’re just sitting and reading this five minute-long story that’s going to help them get through their day," Hornok said.
Through the events and the book, the mission for Hornok is always to help other moms who face challenges while parenting children with autism.
“This is my passion project, this is what I live for. I love serving these women,” she said.
Following the book’s release, Hornok launched her own nonprofit called United in Autism. The organization holds free events across the U.S.
Mom’s Choice Awards is a global program that evaluates family-focused media and awards applicants in several categories. Hornok was awarded the gold prize for the December 2019 adult book section.