Ely Lemus

Ely Lemus, Early Childhood Education Student
Turning parenting skills into career skills
Every parent knows that the skills they use to raise their children are invaluable: time management, logistics, research, teaching, creativity and so much more. Ely Lemus decided to turn her curiosity, passion for children, and specific experience as the parent of a child with autism into a career where she can help parents and children thrive.

“I didn’t have the support system to go to college while my older kids were young. Once my daughter started kindergarten, I had more free time, and I said ‘OK, I’m going to go into education.’ I love kids, especially ages zero to five. And I have knowledge in my house about autism. So I want to get a bachelor’s degree in special education. I’m taking my general education courses in Oakton’s early childhood education program. It has been a great experience. I’m gaining the knowledge and learning the most I can.”

Why empowering parents can make all the difference
Ely has three children. Her son, who is now in high school, is autistic. She has watched him grow and mature and become independent and expressive. A lot of these changes have happened because Ely and her family got connected with resources, programming and community. She says that the empowerment of parents can make all the difference in a child’s life.

“As an early childhood educator, you don’t just help the kids, you guide the parents. Especially around milestones. It’s great to see how little kids evolve. What I love about Oakton’s early childhood education program is that it’s giving me the theory for the knowledge I have already from being a mom. My whole life I’ve been around kids because I’m the oldest sister. And now with the classes I’m taking, I know there is research and resources for all of the child development milestones.”

Creating connection
Ely is a natural organizer. While navigating the complex network of services for children on the autism spectrum as she learned to meet her son’s needs, she noticed there was a gap in resources for Spanish-speaking parents. So, she created a Facebook group where she shares parenting strategies, research, events and encouragement.

“Our Facebook page started out as sharing our story in the world of autism. When we started our journey with my son, we started to read about autism. It was hard though because we didn’t speak the language well at that time. But I’m a curious person—I ask questions and I look for information and find help. I found free workshops and spent hours at the library. I started to share the information I was learning with people who speak Spanish. Things like how you can help a child feel comfortable in their own body, how to advocate for your child at school, and how to find financial help—that information makes a difference.”

“It’s for me.”
As she enters a field that’s all about service, Ely’s motivation is steady: to do something for herself so she can help others.

“I like to challenge myself. I’m doing this because it’s for me—not for my husband, my parents, my siblings—not even for my kids. It’s for me. The kids are going to grow up and they’ll have their own lives. When I was young, I thought people in their thirties were old people. But now that I am this age, I feel like I have all the time in the world to do anything. I’m going to be the first of my siblings to graduate from college. I feel very proud of myself.”