Local mom turns sons' double autism diagnoses into opportunity to help dozens

NORWOOD, Mass. — One local mom turned the autism diagnosis of her children into an opportunity to help hundreds of other families.

The proud Westwood mother of three teenage boys says not much phases her anymore.

"Nick is our oldest at 17, Jonathan is the middle at 15 and Michael is the youngest, 12," said Tracey Stoll.

First, Nick - who was adopted - received a difficult diagnosis.

"Shortly before two he was diagnosed with high-functioning autism," said Stoll.

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Then, biological son Jonathan was also diagnosed with autism.

"He was diagnosed shortly after the age of three," said Stoll.

Michael does not have autism.

"Having two brothers with autism is hard," said Michael.

But it just so happens, Stoll had a graduate degree in special education.

Before becoming a mom, she worked with children on the spectrum in a public school, but even for her, finding the right doctors and therapists for her sons was a struggle.

"And I thought, wow, if I'm struggling and I did this in the classroom every day, what's happening to other people?" said Stoll.

Stoll struggled to help her sons make friends. They couldn't always handle birthday parties or play dates.

"Honestly, as a mom you go through this myriad of emotions where you feel embarrassed, but yet you feel angry," said Stoll.

She realized she wasn't the only mom who felt this way and saw a need for parent coaching and for social skills clubs for kids on the spectrum.

"So I started taking on clients little by little, really out of the kitchen and within six months decided I can do this," said Stoll.

Her company, Learning Solutions, teaches social skills to small groups of toddlers, children and teens. It sometimes involves group outings.

"We get a bite to eat, we ride the MBTA bus, we do paintball," said Stoll.

Friday, Tracey and her staff work with more than 80 kids a week and while Tracey and her husband hadn't planned for their life to go in this direction, she feels she may have been dealt this hand of cards for a reason.

"That was my talent. That's what I was going to be able to bring to the table, not only for my family, but for other families," said Stoll.

For more information on Stoll's social groups for kids with autism and social-emotional challenges, click here.

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