By Kim Stagliano
This is my daughter Mia. She is 19 years old and just finished her fourth year of high school. Next Fall she starts in a new program within our district called Trac21. This is a pilot program, the first in our area outside of private autism schools, to serve the autism population in their "gap" years between traditional secondary school and aging out at age 22.
Our Special Education department recognized early on that the "regular ed special ed" post grad program, called "Elite" in our town, was not going to work for the autism population. (Yet another example of the newness of the epidemic in the last twenty or so years. There are almost no housing or work programs specific to autusm.) First off, it is an itinerant program. The students meet in different locations every day of the week. Second, it is primarily vocational in focus with emphasis on the job sites where you usually see people with disabilities, like stocking shelves at retail and working in a grocery store.
I was on a committee that ate Dunkin Munchkins and drank coffee for two solid years in an effort to find a site for Trac21, plan vocational locations and craft a meaningful day for the two students who would be part of the 2015 school year. 23 months into planning, we had a pilot program. Mia will have almost a full school day, with academics in the morning, vocational work, life skills training and the familiarity of a room within the high school near friends and staff she already knows and trusts. Overall, I'm pleased.
By Jennifer Rose
Well, we've said goodbye to another long April, aka Autism Awareness Month, which has done about as much good for autism as the Spice Girls have done for feminism. If it were more like Breast Cancer Awareness month, which actually does care about people with breast cancer and is about more than “awareness,” it wouldn’t be so bad. Autism Speaks has become notorious for trying to cure autism. But, they also want to make autism look like a “gift”. They also tell us to “Light it Up Blue”- what does that accomplish? Can you say “contradiction?”
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind causes making autistic people feel good about themselves…as long as they don’t treat autism as “alternate thinking”, or worse, a “gift.” It’s only a gift if it inspires people to think outside the box and be more creative. Some famous creative minds may have been autistic (Tim Burton, Andy Warhol, Lewis Carroll) though that’s only speculation. And I found it very sweet for Jodi DiPiazza to sing with Katy Perry, and for Alexis Wineman to overcome autism to become Miss Montana that same year. (I’m also pretty envious of both girls, though Mom and Dad say that I’ll be doing so much more work with autism.)
If they were all Jodi DiPiazzas and Alexis Winemans, it would be easy. However, autism is not a “one size fits all” diagnosis. There are many kids who struggle to get a word out, like my sister. However, autism coverage in the media is a lot like “missing pretty girl syndrome.” If you’re cute, pretty, and “marketable” (read: sugary sweet), you get coverage. Unfortunately, this not only leaves out kids who are severely affected, but also kids who have recovered, like me.
Last September, the mother of cheerleader Keely Pettingill announced that she had recovered, but the media didn’t report that. Her mother was pretty ticked about that, because she wanted a recovery story. She had been told that her daughter would end up in an institution, and she was like “Yeah-college!” My father said “At the next Congressional hearing in November, we have to have a panel of recovered kids.” Thanks, Dad! Too bad Congressman Issa had to cancel.
Recovered kids? Are you serious? Kids can’t “recover” from autism, don’t be silly! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! Man, do I wish people will wake the hell up, because it is a disorder, not just a difference. If people out there stopped seeing homosexuality as a disorder, and autism as just a difference, and instead thought the other way around, we’d be living in a much better world.
I even wrote a poem last March, about “what I would do to help the world”:
If I could change anything about the world…
I would help kids.
Goodbye April, HELLO HOPE!
Have plans Friday, May 9th? Want to have a great time and help raise money for Generation Rescue?
Then come to the 7th Annual Rescue Our Angels event in Chicago! My husband and I are so honored to have been asked to co-host this incredible event founded by parents Michele and Peter Doyle, and we would love for you to join us! After their little girl was diagnosed with autism in 2006, the Doyle's started the Rescue Our Angels benefit to help raise money for autism families in need. Over the last six years, the event has gone from a small, intimate gathering to a star-studded extravaganza that has raised almost one half of a million dollars! Tickets are still on sale, but are going fast. Get yours today! We hope to see you there!
The Focus is on the Transition to Adulthood – Teens Need to be Better Prepared
Register FREE Here!
Irvine, CA: Moms Fighting Autism and Autism College are partnering up to offer a free virtual conference on Saturday April 26th and Sunday April 27th from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM PST. This year’s theme is: Autism from Adolescence to Adulthood, Preparing for Independence and Growth. Keynote speaker Chantal Sicile-Kira, author of five award-winning books on autism, will be speaking on Preparing for the Transition to Adulthood. Speakers include: Brian King, author of Strategies for Building Successful Relationships with People on the Autism Spectrum, who will speak on “Building a Support Community for Interdependence and Growth;” Wendy Partridge, Executive Director of Heroes of the Game, Inc., speaking on “Work Incentives Planning and Assistance – Taking the next step on your Employment Journey”, and Marguerite Cohn, Transitions Program Supervisor of the Rebecca School in New York.
"The transition to adult life can be a rude awakening for parents as well as the young adult," said autism expert and founder of AutismCollege.com, Chantal Sicile-Kira. "The unemployment rate for adults with autism is very high, and we can do a better job of preparing them during their school years. Listening to these speakers is a great way to get empowered with the information parents need to know."
By: Inas Younis
Its takes strength to hold on, but it takes even more strength to let go. But I am a mother and I could only do what came naturally, and so I held on. I held on as tight as I could without hurting him. I held him when he tried to jump out of moving cars. I held him when he tried to attack the neighbors. I held him when he tried run out into streets. I even held him as a form of therapy known as holding therapy. And although he is now gone, I am still holding on, and I just don’t have the strength to let go. Whoever said mothers are strong, did not really understand the meaning of strength.
But now the time has come. Blinded by tears, and deafened by an inner voice which keeps reminding me that mothers never give up on their children, I am going to let go. But before I do, I must throw myself before a jury of my peers and ask for their forgiveness. I know what you are thinking, only God can forgive me. But I don’t need forgiveness from God, for he has been on and by my side since day one. He was there while I screamed and cursed at the heavens for making my son autistic and epileptic. He was there when I begged for a miracle every day for ten years straight. He was there for the countless sleepless nights when my son screamed in pain. He was there when my son had his first seizure. He was there when I had my first panic attack. He was there then, and he is here now. I don’t need his forgiveness, for there is no sin in coping. And I do not need forgiveness from my fellow man, who was completely oblivious during the beatings, the fecal smearing, the screaming, the property destruction, the insanity and horrors of my life which I hid from their innocent eyes and ignorant hearts. No, what I need in order to let go, is forgiveness from a jury of my peers. A jury of mothers who have suffered some measure of the horrors I have for the last sixteen years. For only they can understand, and not because they have been through it, but because many of them are still going through it. They are my heroes, and after you hear my story, they will be your heroes too.
So please allow me to plead my case , starting with the most obvious defense. I tried everything!
Was I aggressive enough with his therapy, his special diets, his medications, you ask? Well let me see if I can remember, because as most of us mothers with special needs children know, we all suffer from a bit of amnesia. It’s our brain’s way of dealing with trauma. I think there is an acronym for it called PTSD. The world of autism is full of acronyms. There is GFCF, SCD, ABA, ASD, IDEA, ESY, and my all time favorite, WTF. But luckily, I kept very detailed journals, so no worries. Of course at the time, I kept them because I was trying to decode the mystery of autism and in my case severe autism. I micromanaged his every bite of food, supplements, medications, and therapy in an effort to isolate cause and effect and determine patterns of behavior. But no patterns emerged except for one; I was going crazy. I submit to the jury the following Journal entries.
October 2003: I am in autism hell, which right now means hiding out in my bathroom while the devil has his way with my son. According to my notes the only thing I introduced in the last couple of days to his supplement protocol is an orange flavored fish oil. Therefore, no more orange flavored fish oil. Note to self: use alternate fish oil. To do list: email the following fish oil companies until I find the purest fish oil known to man.
It has been almost one year since our son James had the opportunity to use the RPM method of communication with Soma Mukhopadhyay. James is verbal but not conversational, and his speech is best described as being very “unreliable” as well as hard to understand. James has gone from almost no real communication to total communication in 6 months.
Needless to say it has changed everything for him and for us. I tell people it is bigger than marriage, childbirth or winning the lottery. It seems as though every day we learn something really big about James and his heart and mind.
When I first realized that a lot of what we thought about James was wrong, I called Dan Olmsted. Over coffee I told him, “I think mercury toxicity creates silent geniuses.” I’ve always been certain that thimerosal and my dental amalgams caused James’ regressive autism and I am now fairly certain that a huge percentage of children or young adults with autism are not intellectually disabled, not even learning disabled, but so severely sensory-motor disabled they can’t show us.
We thought James, who is 14, was around 2nd grade in his academic understanding and that was spotty. When we decided to homeschool and let him use the letter board fo spelling answers, he was able to do 9th grade work in just a few months. We thought he couldn’t add and he easily does algebra and recently asked to learn about cube roots. I am not writing this out of pride for our son. I am telling you this because I don’t think he is the exception, I think he is the rule. In the last year I have seen this over and over again in teens and children who are in life skills classes and who educators and doctors have said are cognitively disabled. When given the opportunity to use RPM or something like it they show us that they have not just been taking it all in, but assimilating it in a typical and functional manner. One day early on our homeschool teachers gave James a vocabulary test. They gave the word “gullible” he spelled “easily fooled." Those examples are endless.
But the most remarkable thing we have learned about James and what I wanted to share in this piece is that despite having suffered in ways unimaginable he (and I think so many of his peers) has great hope for the world and for forgiveness and understanding. It is hard to even put into words what life would be like trapped in your body. Thinking and understanding just like everyone else but not being able to join in a conversation, tell a joke, verbally express love or anger or sadness. To not have friends, have education be limited; the list is long and painful.
But here is a “legend” written by James this week. When I read it my first thought was to put it on Age of Autism because I thought it summarized so much of what this community experiences and it gives us some hope. James said in another conversation that he remains hopeful and I’d like to think we all can. The background is that he is doing Medieval literature in school right now and they have read Beowulf, Sword in the Stone, etc. After discussing (on the letter board) the Sword in the Stone he was given this assignment: (his writing is in Caps)
Why was it so hard for people to believe that Arthur pulled the sword from the stone?
BECAUSE PEOPLE CANNOT BELIEVE THINGS THAT THEY DONT UNDERSTAND.
I received this letter - school paper - from a long time reader of AofA, and asked instantly if I could please share it with you our readers. This young man uses the Rapid Prompting Method to communicate. And just listen to his thoughts..... Rapid Prompting Method RPM empowers the learner a way to express his learning, understanding, reasoning and thoughts.
8-29-13 Narrative – High School Experience – Journal Exercise 1.8
Sam couldn’t do RPM. He was not placing the choices in the right place. I couldn’t touch what I wanted. He placed the choices too far away from me. A giant desk was between us. I had to stretch my arm and it bothered me. It made me tired. My arm felt like lead. Sam also couldn’t speak. He stuttered.
I couldn’t show I was learning anything from Sam. I can’t talk all the words I think and I can’t write. I understand everything read or said to me. It’s ironic. I can’t talk and yet I am critical of Sam's stuttering.
All I could think about was how to hurt him. I came up with a plan, or I had a plan, to hit him whenever I had a chance. They had a bolster blocking me from attacking.
I sat in a lousy hard chair. I was mad because no one knew I was smart. Stinky rotten teachers, Sam was a big black inept jerk. The classroom had cold cinder block walls, yucky zoo classroom. I felt I might as well be in prison.
Ellie gave a workshop on RPM. She was wonderful. I was sad to see her go. She was patient and skilled. She made me feel competent and successful. The other teachers were patronizing. They laughed at her as she spoke and taught. I felt humiliated. I just kept looking down and avoiding eye contact.
We often receive emails from companies offering products that might be of interest to the autism community. This hands-on gaming platform from Digital Dream Labs piqued our curiosity and so, we are sharing it with you. Some of our kids might go to work for companies like Digital Dream Labs one day. As programmers - or maybe for some of our kids, as the nice guy or gal or helps tidy up at night. Let us know what you think in the comments. And check out their KickStarter fundraising page too.
cloudBoard is a new gaming system that brings together the play patterns of real-world toys, like Lego and Lincoln Logs, and modern videogames, such as Angry Birds or Super Mario Bros. This connection of real and digital play is achieved by using toy puzzle blocks to play videogames.
Dear Fellow Age of Autism Readers,
A Thankful and Appreciative Age of Autism Reader
Friends, grab a pom pom to wipe your eyes when you read this wonderful story of autism recovery success, and pride. Keely's Mom is Kendra Pettengill, a long time autism advocate who credits ARI along with school staff and good friends with Keely's outstanding success. But it's Keely herself whose words ring truest, "Impressive!" Congratulations to the family. Keep the hope!
GLIDE, Ore. -- Last week, the Glide Wildcats had their first home game of the season. At that game, there was one cheerleader who was cheering for a lot more than football.
Kendra Pettengill's daughter Keely is on the cheer leading team, but there was a time when she wasn't sure it was best for her daughter. "I was thinking this was the last thing she needs, is to be on a cheer squad," Kendra said.
But, Keely made the varsity cheer squad for her sophomore year.
She's not like most cheerleaders: she's autistic.
Shelby Mehlhoff, a Glide senior, talked about Keely's work ethic. "She comes out and gives it her all everyday," she said.
Sidney Fucciolo, a junior, agrees. "She's came a long way. You can tell she's matured and growing into a woman and getting out of that girl stage," she said.
Hello All - just wanted to followup with a final email to let you know of our results (both physically and monetarily) in hiking the Presi-Traverse and raising money to support the Age of Autism. We started out with a group of 9 hikers leaving at 5:15 in the morning beginning at the Appalachia Trailhead. The "trails" we encountered were more akin to rock climbing for about 80% of the 24-mile hike. By the afternoon at 1:23 p.m. we had reached the peak of Mt. Washington having climbed to 6,288 elevation. At this point having hiked approx. 15 miles in and 4 mountain peaks (see the enclosed pdf), our group reduced down to 6 hikers as my son Jonathan was experiencing severe foot pain and his brother Nick took him off the mountain at this point and the remaining group moved on (as well as 1 other had left at the 4 mile mark).
I and the other 5 of our remaining group continued on and successfully completed the entire 24-mile and 7 mountain peaks at 7:45 p.m. This was one of the most challenging high-end adventures that myself and my boys have ever embarked on, given the rough terrain and elevation climbs. Approximately only 150 people annually complete this trek in one day.
I want to sincerely thank everyone for their support and generosity in donating to this very special cause. With a few late donations still coming in this week, we raised a total of $3,722. That is AWESOME!!!
This conversation started from Harrison noticing me wearing a new pair of flip-flops (the ones from Healthy Souls that benefits Generation Rescue). They were the first flip-flops I’ve ever had, but for the first pair, it was like it was meant to happen.
Harrison saw me wearing them (my sandals) and said, “Dad, you have new shoes!”
This started a conversation which was one of the biggest turning points in his recovery: identifying with autism for the first time. I pointed to the “a” in the puzzle piece (on the sandal) and asked, “Do you know what this is?”
Harrison replied, “It’s a puzzle piece.”
I asked, “Do you know what the “a” means?”
Harrison looked at me and replied, “Autism.”
I had never heard him say ‘autism’ before, so I asked, “Do you know what autism is?”
Harrison replied, “It’s a sickness.”
I asked another question, “What kind of sickness?”
Harrison pointed to his stomach and head saying, “Where your tummy hurts and you can’t talk.”
I was in a state of amazed shock at this point and wanted to keep it going, so I said, “But you can talk now, and you’ve said for awhile that your tummy doesn’t hurt anymore.”
Harrison looked up at me, “Yes, I’m getting much better now.”
I asked him, “How did you get better?” and he answered, “Dr. Usman, Dr. Krigsman, and Dr. Michele (his primary care), are all taking away my autism.”
I could barely squeak out, “Do you remember what it was like when you couldn’t talk?”
Harrison answered, “Yes, it was the sickness, but now I’m much better. Can I watch YouTube now please?”
I opened the prison ministry box, first time, and found my name on your file. I expected maybe a murderer or a drug dealer, not a transgendered Christian minister re-incarcerated for possession of a firearm. Anyway, you’ve been assigned to me, your volunteer pen pal.
I know that there are many ways to be a prisoner. I have a 25-year-old son, Ben, severely autistic. My experience as a single father and caregiver opened my heart to the pain of the least, the lost, and the lonely. I’ve learned that some of the “least” have what the world needs most: the gift, as Jean Vanier says, of leading us gently into the depths of our own hearts, there to find patience, acceptance, and love. After reading the letters in your file, I believe you have that gift.
There’s another connection, too. Last summer I helped found and facilitate AIM Ranch, a residential campus for young adults with autism. One of the campers, a 21-year-old nicknamed Zero, told me that he’d been in every mental hospital, juvenile detention facility, and group home in the vicinity of Dexter, Missouri. Zero’s dad, a professor of agronomy and plant pathology, wanted him to be a missionary, but that didn’t work out so well. In fact, with one important exception, almost everything Zero tried -- to get a driver’s license, sustain a friendship, get and hold a job – didn’t work out so well for him.
My first night on duty at AIM Ranch, I was working on my computer in the common area when Zero passed through on the way to the kitchen, dressed for bed.
“I’m gonna kill myself tonight,” he said. “Yep, tonight’s the night.”
“How are you going to do that, Zero? Rope, knife, gun, pills?”
“I’m gonna slow down my hawt until it stops.”
I could have called Shoal Creek and had him taken to the state hospital, but I’d seen the term astral projection in his email headers, and I had my doubts. “So you’re gonna stop your heart, leave your body, and come back a better person?”
“I’m not comin’ back.”
“Leave your feet sticking out the end of the bed,” I should have said. “Tomorrow morning I’ll tickle your toes. If they don’t twitch, I’ll call 911 and tell them to dump your body in the creek. We have another camper waiting for your bed.”
Zero survived the night, and so did I … but not without checking on him every few hours.
As the summer wore on I became intrigued by this smart, funny, engaging young adult who seemed to have so much going for him, but who couldn’t pull his life together or make anything go right for long. Why couldn’t he live independently? The camp supervisor summed it up: “There is only one reality,” she told him, “and you aren’t in it.” Zero’s tenure at AIM Ranch ended in chaos under threat of violence. He was taken into custody and is serving a sentence in a state-supervised ward.
My heart goes out to Zero. I’ve continued my research into autism and psychosis, and discovered that he and Ben have a lot in common: what Dr. Bernie Rimland, founder of the autism recovery movement, called “dyslogic.” Both Zero and Ben are challenged to think logically, plan for the future, control aggressive impulses, learn from their mistakes, and understand the consequences of their actions. And if Rimland’s associate, brain researcher William J. Walsh, is right, Ben and Zero share a similar biochemistry. I’ve also learned that there are many people like Zero in our jails, mental institutions, homeless shelters, and prisons. Where, under different circumstances, Ben could be too. And that’s why I’m writing to you, Johnnie. I hope to learn how better to help my son.
By Teresa Conrick
In 2012 at Autism One, I met Nicholas Glenski, a young man who said he hoped to "go the distance" and one day, cure himself of autism. He was so enthusiastic and inspired by so many speakers last year that now one year later, he, himself was a speaker at Autism One -- and he did a beautiful job!
I have to confess, when Nicholas called me one evening during the winter months and told me that he was giving a talk on autism and his road to recovery, I was nervous for him as I thought how could he talk about so many issues regarding treatments? Well, being the tenacious teen that he is, Nicholas simply decided to pick up the phone and call researchers, reach out to moms on FB who were treating their own children, and seek out help by reading all he could.
His dad, Richard, told me that this journey first started three years ago in St. Louis when he took Nicholas to an autism conference and they heard Temple Grandin speak. That set off a spark in Nicholas and then a profound desire to learn more, especially when he met a biochemist there who talked about biomedical treatments for autism. One of Temple's books was bought that night, and Nicholas was later reading it voraciously when he accidentally left it in his dad's car between visits. His dad saw it and decided to read it as well. He too felt more inspired, and when he heard that Temple herself was coming to St. Louis for a presentation, Richard surprised Nicholas by taking him there. Nicholas has since told me that Jenny's McCarthy's focus on her son's journey to recovery has made Nicholas a huge fan and also an avid believer in biomedical treatments for autism. Nicholas then began researching for himself because as he stated:
"I was trapped in my body. I could not get out."
On June 15, Nick, Nicholas and Jonathan Zoccoli are going to hike through New Hampshire's White Mountains in a 26 mile Presidential Traverse to raise money for autism action through Age of Autism. Nick is uncle, and Jonathan and Nicky are cousins, to a terrific youngster with autism - whose Mom is a close friend of AoA's Kim Stagliano.
Nick Zoccoli, a longtime and generous supporter of AoA, has offered to dedicate the hike to his nephew and to donate proceeds raised to AoA.
From Section Hiker: "One of the great hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is called a Presidential Traverse. It’s so-called because hikers climb all of the mountains in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains in one continuous hike that’s nearly 23 miles long with close to 9,000 feet of elevation gain."
CLICK HERE TO DONATE to team Zoccoli via PayPal - no account required. (Firefox & Chrome users may experience difficulty. Use Yellow donate button on right sidebar)
Click the YELLOW DONATE BUTTON on the right sidebar.
Send a check payable to Age of Autism c/o Team Zoccoli 41 Northfield Lane, Berlin, CT 06037
Presidential Traverses are usually hiked from north to south, climbing the following sequence of peaks, in order to get the greatest elevation gains over with early on, with hikers starting before dawn and often hiking into the night.
We've finally left April and its namby pamby feel good (not that we don't like feel good stories at AofA) blue lit "awareness" behind. It's fitting that May first was MAY DAY - the call of distress. Here's a story from Generation Rescue, our sponsor, and provider of the Rescue Family Grant. This grant program puts dollars into familes' hands and medical treatment. And it is quietly changing lives for the better. Thank you to Jenny McCarthy, Candace MacDonald and the entire GR team. You can meet Jenny and bask in the GenRescue Lounge at the Autism One Generation Rescue conference in Chicago later this month. The cost is just $50 for a five day conference if you register by May 6.
Listen to what a Mom said about what the grant has done for her son:
Less than a month into starting biomedical treatment, the Generation Rescue grant recipients are making amazing progress!
"P's teachers were thrilled today when I came to pick him up from school. They said it was the best day he's had in a long time. P's expressive and receptive language is just taking off. He is able to express anything he wants. We're over the moon! Seeing these positive changes makes us so grateful for this opportunity."
-V, Mom to P
To find out more about the Generation Rescue Family Grant program and to apply to start treatment, please visit Gen Rescue.
The treatment category is sponsored by Lee Silsby, the leader in quality compounded medications for autism.
By Anne Dachel
After reading the Thinking Moms’ Revolution, I know one thing: this is our book. The twenty-three moms and one dad included in TMR tell all our stories to some degree. And they are THINKING. They question, they research, they dispute, and they discover. The title is a perfect one for what these people do.
As we all know, no two autistic children are exactly alike and neither are their parents’ experiences. There are however, lots of common threads revealed in the book. There are the accounts of the bubbling excitement and great expectations parents had when their children were born and the disbelief and fear in the face of regression and developmental stops. There are the doctors who failed to understand what autism is doing to our children or to provide real help to parents.
TMR is also about hope and success. It’s moms who struck out on their own to find answers and did it. It was the Internet that was their lifeline. There they found resources and support groups like the Thinking Moms, the National Autism Association, Age of Autism, and Talk About Curing Autism. Most of all, they made connections with other parents that empowered and informed them. The computer provided the education they needed. Moms learned about homeopathy, organic food, supplements and special diets.
“Homeopathy brought speech, receptive language, cognitive gains and increased awareness.”
Thank you to a reader who sent us this poem for World Autism Day. The photo is my daughter's hand from one of the several injuries she received during her months of abuse while riding the bus. Black and blue should be the colors of today - as so many of our loved ones face danger because of their autism. K
Color me blue
I’m aware of your pain
That your child was harmed
By a merciless bane
Color me blue
I’m aware of their woe
That they face hardships
Which others don’t know
Color me blue
I’m aware of turned heads
Who should be helping
But who hurt instead
Color me blue
And a tear for you
My heart goes out
Color me blue
Managing Editor's Note: For information on wandering and an action tool kit called The Big Red Box, please visit National Autism Association's AWAARE program.
By Mark Bucknam
It was Tuesday, April 25, 2011, a beautiful warm spring morning in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington DC. At John’s house, a radio alarm clock sounded at 5:45 a.m., softly delivering the news of the day, growing gradually louder. John’s dad quickly silenced it, wanting to allow his wife another 15 minutes of sleep before her alarm signaled the start of her day. Raising John, a moderately autistic adolescent, required a team effort by his parents. John’s dad awoke first to prepare vitamin and dietary supplements that doctors believed John needed to compensate for deficits in his metabolism—deficits common among autistic children. Mom would follow soon after, to make sure the kids were properly dressed and fed before getting on their respective school buses.
A few weeks from his 15th birthday, John had the functional intelligence of a boy half his age, but none of the emotional intelligence. That was autism…or at least the manifestation of autism in John. Every autistic person is different, though many share similar intellectual deficiencies, quirky behaviors, and most tellingly, social deficits. They lack interpersonal skills.
Like his older sister, John had bright blue eyes and red hair, though his was cut fairly short, hers was long and curly. John was 5’8” tall, trim and solid at 140 pounds. He usually slept well, but was full of nervous energy during his waking hours.
It had not been a good night. John had barged into his parent’s bedroom at 2:30 in the morning, fully awake. His groggy parents teamed up to coax and cajole him back to his own bed. His mom stayed with him a while, until he settled down and seemed ready to go back to sleep, before she headed back to her own bed. John’s dad ventured downstairs to the first floor to check the lock on the refrigerator and the lock on the door from the den to the garage to make sure that they were locked —these were the two locked doors that the family used most often and most likely to be accidentally left unlocked.
For John’s safety, everything had to be locked, either to keep him out of it—like the refrigerator, the kitchen pantry, the basement, and the guest bedroom—or to keep him from getting out of the house through it—like the front door, the patio doors, and the door from the den to the garage. The locks were identical, excepting for the one on the front door. They were all small combination locks with three rotary wheels containing numbers from 0-9 used to set the combination. All of the locks were set for the same combination—a number that marked the month and day of John’s dad’s birthday.
Downstairs early that Tuesday morning, John’s dad turned on the coffeemaker and a small TV, which quietly detailed world news. He measured out John’s morning supplements – making sure not to confuse the morning batch of vitamins with those John would get in the afternoon, or the ones he would take just before bedtime. By 6:00 a.m., John’s dad climbed back up the stairs and quietly slipped into John’s bedroom.
John’s bed was empty.
Congrats to Daniella, our winner!
Thank you to Melissa at The Puzzling Piece for offering us a beautiful heart necklace for a lucky AofA reader. Melissa started the "iPad Challenge" program for families to win an iPad in an easy sales contest. It's almost Autism Action Month - a great time to join the Challenge.
My husband and devoted father to our two son comes from a family of educators.
It was only logical that our son continue his secondary education as an
extension of his student experience that started when he was 3 1/2 years old.
Like a long rising phoenix, this young man had paid his dues and deserved a
college experience, Right?
Wrong. Apparently we were dead-assed wrong and the minutes scribed during our brief meeting will only relay our ignorance. The road we travel just got infinitely longer supporting our now adult son with ASD.
The gate-keeper required him to pass a 3 hour reading and writing assessment, unsupported, with a timer looming in the corner. For art classes - even labs. Awesome. Didn't we cover our Achilles heel well enough over the 15 years of education, therapies, assessments, awards, grades, passing federal standardized testing, his web-site, posted online art submissions all while earning exceptional honors? Nope.
Losing eye contact. Right. About. Now.
We, the parents, knew exactly what was happening. Our son was being deliberately set up to fail. This was not acceptable, on any level, with any student. On the way home, the conversation in the car yielded a new plan. Anxiety was replaced with reassurance that he would NEVER again have to take class or be assessed just to learn the skills he needs to use equipment and techniques to create his own brand of graphic arts.
Artists with Autism, Earn Extra Holiday Shopping Money
Beacon Day School,
supporting programs for adults and microenterprise, would like to obtain more
artwork by individuals with autism to beautify the environment for students.
Beacon Day School features many paintings by award-winning artist Trent Altman,
whose mother, Dr. Jackie Marquette, recently came on board as AutismOne art
Between December 5th and December 15th, individuals with autism or their caregivers are invited to email pdf or jpg images of their art that is valued between $150-$500 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include the artist's name, website address, mailing address, phone number, and dimensions and price of each piece submitted by December 15th (also send a second email with no attachment that lets Beacon know of your submittal, just in case the email with an attachment bounces). Three pieces will be selected, which, after verification of availability to ship to Beacon by January 11th, will be announced on the Beacon Day School website's Focus on Art tab, www.beacondayschool.com/artists.html, on December 18th. A check will be mailed from Beacon to the three selected artists December 19th (shipping costs are the responsibility of the artist; please ship insured). Selected pieces will be depicted on the Beacon website and displayed at the AutismOne conference in May 2013.
Falling, written by Deanna Jent, is a play now running in New York, off Broadway. Autism, like many difficult topics in America, is often sanitized to the point of saccharine caricature. Not Falling, which brings the audience into a home with a severely autistic man - an 18 year old boy. Perhaps it's your home? (Photo Julia Murney and Daniel Everidge star in 'Falling,' now playing off-Broadway. / AP/David Gersten & Associates)Here's part of the review from The Asbury Park Press by Bill Canacci: Sometimes we need more than statistics to help us understand. That is likely why Deanna Jent wrote “Falling,” a powerful new play about how a couple copes with their 18-year-old autistic son.The numbers tell one side of the story: One in 88 children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder. For boys, it’s 1 in 54.But in 75 minutes, Jent gives audiences a glimpse of what families touched by autism likely have to go through every day.
This sounds like a Lifetime movie, but don't be fooled. "Falling," which has practically crept into town from the Mustard Seed Theatre in St. Louis, is an unflinching and unsanitized drama about family life with a severely autistic 18-year-old boy.
Directed with enormous sensitivity and edge by Lori Adams, Deanna Jent's exhausting, strangely exhilarating new play deserves to be far more than a destination for autism fundraising benefits and people with personal investment in that isolating world.
Note: Last year we ran a post about the first showing of The Lion King on Broadway - a special performance to invite people with autism to enjoy the theatre. A second show ran last week - and below is the POV of one of the actors from Broadway World.com. While seeking treatments and answers for autism - we have to live and enjoy life and allow our kids to experience the world around them. After all, it's a hard knock life for us." Oops, wrong show. ;) Thank you to The Lion King production.
Last fall, Theatre Development Fund (TDF) piloted the new program, Autism Theatre Initiative, as part of TDF’s Accessibility Programs (TAP), to make theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum, and their families. They presented the first-ever autism-friendly performance of a Broadway show at Disney’s landmark The Lion King on October 2, 2011 and followed that up with an autism-friendly performance of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins on April 29, 2012.
On September 30, the cast of The Lion King took part in another autism-friendly performance, and Rod Thomas, an actor in the show, wrote about the experience from his perspective. The full piece is as follows:
"The Lion King" is a remarkable show for so many different reasons, but I want to share a small footnote of its history with you.
I remember seeing "The Lion King" for the first time on Broadway in 1999 in the New Amsterdam Theater and being completely captivated. I remember seeing it in Des Moines, IA on the day I joined the National Tour in 2006. I've seen it countless times in cities across the country and beyond - from Honolulu, Hawaii where it was received with an incredible amount of love and joy to Mexico City in an arena so large they simulcast it on two large screens above the stage. It is amazing how much audiences still go wild for it every night almost 15 years later.
9 am Pacific / 12 noon Eastern
A BEACON OF LIGHT AND HOPE FOR LIFE CARE PLANNING: Dr. Mary Joann Lang and Edward Miguel, COO, interview Michael Sanders, MBA, and Lisa Rudley, MBA
What do you need to do to ensure sufficient resources for your ASD child’s future during adulthood? Dr. Mary Joann Lang, founder, and Edward Miguel, chief operating officer, of Beacon Day School interview Michael Sanders, MBA, and Lisa Rudley, MBA, about the vital topic of life care planning.
Polly Tommey, a mother from London with a son with autism and Founder of The Autism Trust will be opening Polly’s Place in Sunninghill, Ascot as the charity’s first retail, training and administrative facility on Friday 5th October 2012.
Polly Tommey set up The Autism Trust in 2006 to support the creation of a better future with real purpose for children everywhere with autism as her son Billy, approached his teenage years with very uncertain prospects for his own future.
Polly’s Place is an exciting new shop that has been developed as a social enterprise to help people with autism lead more fulfilling and rewarding lives. The retail training shop will provide both customer-‐facing and administrative experiences whilst showcasing artistic talents of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Many vulnerable young adults with autism live at home, so Polly’s Place will promote home working and individual creativity as a recognisable and important contributor to the local economies of the UK encouraging high quality homemade/handmade products created through artisan skill to be celebrated.
At the very centre of all activities undertaken by The Autism Trust is the concept of “Wellbeing”. It is the core “mantra” of the organisation, the wellbeing of any person involved with the Trust is key. It is about identifying when a person with Autism is becoming stressed and giving them “time-‐out or a calm down break”. It is also about providing a range of strategies that will help the individual learn to cope with difficult situations.
A parallel programme: ‘AH-‐HA’ (Autistic Helping Hands in Ascot), will also be started by The Autism Trust in October to provide services for the local community. Initial projects will include garden tidying and maintenance to members of the local elderly at-‐home population.
“She’ll have a good life,” she said, reassuring me that everything was going to be okay.
The emphasis was on the good, not in a way that stressed “awesome” “great” or “fantastic”, but in a way that expressed “satisfactory”, “acceptable”, or “decent”.
It was meant to be helpful, I know. It was meant to remind me that things could be so much worse. It was meant to make me feel better.
It didn’t. In fact, it just made me angry…and then sad.
When I look back on my life thus far, I’m relieved to find that my feelings about it are overwhelmingly those of joy and gratitude. I have had a great life, I believe. In fact, I feel like one of the most blessed people on the planet. I really mean that.
It’s only when I really start to think about the tragedy that befell my daughter and our family that I begin to question it.
My child was poisoned. Her brain and body irrevocably damaged. Her life’s potential stolen. Her suffering and experience denied by those who caused it, the same people needed to fix it. Betrayed by our country and our media. Our marriage fragmented. Our lives cracked in half. The pain coming this close to breaking us. Breaking me.
Great life? Really?
And yet, the answer to that is still the same, beyond any shadow of a doubt. Yes, I’ve had a great life. One of the greatest I know.
For I have lived in Spain and danced in the fountains of Madrid and on the shores of Ibiza at midnight.
I have celebrated in Wembley Stadium with over 100,000 people singing in unison…including Prince William.
I have completed a marathon…in Alaska…while pregnant. And I swear I’m not making that up.
I have married and stayed married to the most perfect man on the planet for me, twenty years together this November, teenagers when we met.
I have excelled in academics and have never really had to work hard for anything…until marriage…and then Autism…and then marriage again.
I have the most loving, supporting, amazing, and hilarious family anyone could ever ask for.
I have had the same best friends since I was 7 years old, and we are still as close, if not closer, than we ever were.
I live in Chicago.
I have been able to use my favorite creative outlet, writing, to actually make a difference.
I have marched on Washington for what I believe in. Thrice.
I have stroked my children’s hair while I have rocked them to sleep, breathed in the scent of them as newborns just placed in my arms, and in those moments, have repeatedly experienced true, unconditional love.
I have learned what it means to be willing to die for someone if it would mean an end to their suffering, no questions asked.
I’ve had the privilege of teaching at two of the best schools in the nation.
I’ve been healthy and active, running and exercising my whole life without injury or difficulty.
I’ve learned I’m stronger, smarter, and more powerful than I ever could have imagined. And I’ve been really frightened by the responsibility that brings.
I have seen my favorite band in concert five times, and once, I even got chosen from a crowd of tens of thousands of people to sit in the front row while they shot a video.
I have been honored by Oprah Winfrey as one of America’s best teachers, showered in her “Favorite Things” on television (only to come home hours later and receive a diagnosis that would change my life forever).
And most incredible…she recovered.
Early in the summer, I received a letter notifying me that my school district was honoring me for ‘My Career Dreams’ poster during the June district meeting. My entry for the National Career Development Poster Contest had placed first in state, and third place nationally. The June meeting date, as well as the July date, fell during my Precollege session at Ringling College of Art and Design. Thankfully, the district rescheduled me for August on the last day of summer vacation.
I spent that day organizing my supplies for the first day of school, and finally getting my learner’s permit. This is my senior year. My older brother Anthony has low verbal autism, and aged out of special education services June 2012, and is now home full time with my mom. Anthony is prone to very loud echolalia which he can’t control. Family events requiring a respectful silence are handled by one parent staying home with Anthony, and the other parent attending the event. My father’s work schedule had interfered with many of my art recognitions over the years. My mother did not want him to miss another opportunity, so my dad accompanied me and my mother stayed home with Anthony.
When my father and I arrived at the district auditorium, we were told that I was also being recognized for my senior project work, which led to my becoming a contributing editor for Age of Autism. This came as a complete surprise. We were prepared for my art acknowledgment, but had no idea there would be any recognition for Age of Autism. My father was very proud they wanted to extend dual recognition. However, it was emotionally bittersweet to have one child being recognized for accomplishments inspired by the other more vulnerable one. We both couldn’t help but wonder what Anthony’s accomplishments might have been if autism hadn’t come to call. Even our happy moments have a little pain underneath.
In attendance was Melissa Rawl, principal of Lexington High School, and Ken Lake, the principal of Lexington Technology Center. The Board of Trustees welcomed everyone, and said the meeting would be brief because the school year was starting the next day. They handed out a newsletter entitled “Proof Positive” which honors students and teachers receiving state, national, and international awards. I was categorized under “Visual Arts Awards”.
AutismOne: A Conversation of Hope
Noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific
A BEACON OF LIGHT FOR YOUR CHILD, with Dr. Mary Joann Lang and Edward Miguel
We hear so many stories from around the country of special ed programs not serving children well or – worse – putting children in danger. Few things give parents as much hope as a good school program with caring staff members who treat students with kindness and respect. Dr. Mary Joann Lang, founder, and Edward Miguel, chief operating officer, of Beacon Day School talk about the current model and future hopes for Beacon programs, including new technology, integrative education, support staff for children with medical issues, transitional needs, and the looming national crisis in adult care for individuals with autism. Dr. Lang will particularly address adult issues and explore thoughts for moving forward into a future with hope. Please visit www.beacondayschool.com.
By Wendy Frye
This spring, our son graduated from high school.
Born well and happy, he like many of the children you read about, regressed back into himself after his early rounds of routine vaccinations. He became very sick, unhappy and while meeting his major milestones on time, lost his ability to communicate with us using language.
"He's a boy, they are late talkers." "Wait until he is three years old, it will come." Eventually, after many years of expert opinion and conjecture, we were handed a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The diagnosis delivered complete with long stares and a diatribe of advice which included an institution at the end of our 18 years of parenting.
Our family dynamic never "changed" or "wavered" from the original plan. We vowed to do anything and everything to help this child, my first born, regain what was so bullishly robbed from him including his health, happiness and a healthy future. This happened over 15 years ago - when 1 in 10,000 won this Autism lottery. Always (always, always!) holding steadfast and headstrong into the winds of what many families are dealing with now, we are emerging at another side of the story. He's not 100 percent, but he is the best version of himself, right here, right now.
This spring, our son graduated from high school.
To accomplish his graduation our son endured more challenges, trials and tribulations than is room to list here. He came from the back of the pack, shackled to an iron rod, his tongue tied up in poor health and a system that let him down. A true dark horse is what my son is.
How did he do it? The day after diagnosis we started building a "launchpad" if you will. A port in the storm where he could find his health, gain his voice, and ultimately blast off to leave his fingerprint on this world. Biological interventions coupled with sensory based therapies EVERY SINGLE DAY became our families norm. He did it all. As they say, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. Well, he drank it in, took responsibility to grow into the fine young man he is today.
This spring, our son graduated from high school.
This young man is a self-declared artist. On his own accord he has studied art history, memorized styles and artists to go on and create fractal, abstract and downright provocative compositions with his own hand. He names the pieces so thoughtfully, giving us insight about what it is like to be Autistic. He proclaims he is an artist with Autism. And knowing this world so desperately wants to know more about how he feels and thinks, it has become his pleasure to offer his works for sale, with proceeds going back to the fine organizations like Age of Autism.
This spring, our son graduated from high school.
Autism on the Seas (AotS), a niche travel company catering to vacationing families with special needs, and Skyeward Bound Ranch (SBR), a non-profit charity dedicated to providing social and recreational interaction for specially challenged youth, jointly announced today the tri-state kickoff of the “I Need a Special Vacation” Essay Contest in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. The essay winner, as well as the winner’s non-profit autism support group of choice each receive a special needs cruise or land resort vacation with AotS.
“Now entering our third regional contest market, we are all pumped up on the joy and excitement this initiative has created,” says Dalace-Skye Duvall, Founder and President of Skyeward Bound Ranch. What’s really wonderful about this whole campaign is the fact that we now have a growing list of terrific deserving families that we may be able to grant Autism on the Seas vacations to.”
“We want to congratulate our recent Florida region winner, Candy Rhodes, and her family. Rhodes selected the Peace By Piece Learning Center in Fort Myers as her non-profit autism advocacy group of choice to receive a cruise donation,” says Mike Sobbell, founder and owner of Autism on the Seas. We’re excited and hope that this gift will help them to raise funds for their organization.”
The unique partnership with Skyeward Bound Ranch has made it possible to offer the Autism community a chance to win a special needs vacation or receive a grant that will enable them to take a real vacation with Autism on the Seas and other like families, in an environment that is comfortable, accommodating, accepting and fun!”
“I Need a Special Vacation” Essay Contest Kicks Off in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi
Over the next year, AotS will run in-market contests with participating local autism advocacy groups, as well as local chapters of national organizations, such as Autism Speaks and the National Autism Association. Families interested in entering the contest will be asked to write a 250-word essay on why they need a special vacation.
The winner will receive a paid cruise or land resort vacation with AotS. Additionally, the non-profit autism advocacy organization named on the entry form by the winner will also receive a cruise. The organization may use the cruise to raise funds or however they wish. Runner-up prizes will also be included.
Contest rules and submission deadlines will be listed on the AotS website, www.AutismontheSeas.com. As the promotion is rolled out in each market, AotS will make announcements and post updates to their website. AotS is accepting entries from Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi contestants starting on July 26th. The submission deadline is August 22nd; winning family and organization will be selected and notified by August 31st, 2012.
Esteemed Panel of Contest Judges
This Tuesday, noon Eastern, on the VoiceAmerica Health and Wellness Channel www.health.voiceamerica.com
AutismOne: A Conversation of Hope
Extreme Sports Camp, with Sally Bernard
Autism enrichment pioneer, Sally Bernard, is joined by her staff at Extreme Sports Camp for this on location interview by Betsy Hicks, whose son is attending the camp in Aspen, Colorado. The camp focuses on teaching both children and adults with autism, outdoor sports where they are actively engaged so that the attendees learn skills rather then passively participating. This year kicks off their new adult program which additionally teaches employment skills making sure to challenge participants appropriately.
An Independent Me (AIM), a full-time residence and summer camp for adults (18 and older) with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Round Rock celebrates its grand opening on Saturday, June 30th from 4-8 p.m. Interested parents and the local community are encouraged to attend to learn about day camp opportunities and full-time residence at AIM.
AIM kicked off its first session on June 11, 2012 and with seven campers and one resident in attendance, the first two weeks have been a major success. Adults at AIM have learned how to build a picnic table from wood planks, care for livestock on the ranch-style property, sew, and plant the seeds for an on-site vegetable garden. The grand opening is open to the public and will include bar-b-que, horseback riding, a petting zoo, games, and a silent auction featuring camper-created art and picnic tables.
AIM exceeds standard expectations of group homes for individuals with development disabilities, providing:
Last week, one animal-loving camper shadowed a veterinary technician for two days at nearby Block House Creek Animal Hospital. Angela Day, AIM founder and mother to son with autism beams with pride, "In developing An Independent Me, my heart is full as I spend time with the smiling faces of these innocent souls, teaching them to become as independent as possible, and providing rewarding and individually challenging activities for them on a daily basis."
By Jennifer Flinton
My 10-year-old autistic son was dis-enrolled from the adaptive summer day camp at our local recreation center today. This was a camp specifically designed for special needs children; there were actually several kids my son knew from school in the very same camp. I’m starting to detect an emerging trend here. “Special needs” doesn’t necessarily apply to my son, who is totally non-verbal and is on the more severe end of the autism spectrum.
This has happened before. I enroll my son in what seems, on paper, to be an ideal program for him – small staff-to-child ratio, lots of activities to keep him occupied, and most importantly, staff trained to understand and work with special kiddos like mine. Then, when my son and I go for our first day, we quickly realize that they really didn’t mean kids like him, with often severe outbursts of behavior, self-injurious behavior, and aggression. They want compliant kids; those kids with special needs who might just be a little physically slower or cognitively slightly impaired. Those are the kids who look good on the brochure, not my kid who’s red-faced and whose nose is running snot because he’s been screaming for the past hour.
The first experience like this was with a TOPS Soccer group in our hometown of Olympia, WA. The “cute,” compliant special needs children loved the indoor gym and were eager to participate in the group warm-up activities. My son covered his ears due to the echoes of the gym, and wanted nothing more than to leave – he kept crying and tugging at me to go. We gave up after 4 or 5 practices.
The next experience was with a social skills group for ASD children. The first year we were here in the Austin, TX area, my son did well with this group, so I was the first to sign him up the following year. I found out a week before the group was scheduled to start (and once it was too late to find another summer activity for him because they were all long since full) that the agency had decided to have a higher functioning social skills group, where they could take community field trips and such, so my lower-functioning son could not participate. Sorry.
A few weeks after that, my son’s speech therapist gave us an ultimatum…either my son’s aggressive outbursts had to drastically improve within two weeks, or he could no longer receive speech services from her. Considering we’d been doing almost nothing but trying to stop his behavioral outbursts for years, this was not a likely possibility. I was a bit surprised because the head of that speech clinic was a BCBA herself. Surely, if anyone should be able to work with behaviorally involved ASD children, it was her and her staff. So, we didn’t bother to wait the two weeks – we stopped going on the spot.
We decided to try Miracle League baseball – a baseball team specifically designed for special needs children. They assigned a one-on-one volunteer to every child, which in theory sounded perfect for my son. Well, it turned out that these volunteers were middle and high school students who really didn’t know how to handle more severe behaviors like my son has. Also, it was disappointing to them not to get the emotional feedback from my son and other children like him – if they were going to volunteer, they wanted to feel like they were having a positive impact on the children. Several families with more severely affected children were asked not to participate any longer.
I am sending you these boots to symbolize the fact that my son Colin will never be a third generation NYC Firefighter, Colin like 1.5 million other American children and young adults has Autism. Our children are getting older and the Autism debate is endless, I just left my sons school and had to step around a student having a “difficult” time sprawled out on the floor, we parents are heartbroken and angry that our beautiful kids are so tormented, they have no future, and we anguish over what will become of them when we are no longer around to care for them.
We need a cure, and we need your help, it won’t cost you a dime, just a few passionate words. We need you to be brave like my son and bold like President Kennedy when in dramatic and unforgettable fashion he challenged the scientific community of the day to put a man on the moon, his words were powerful and inspired our nation to one of the greatest achievements in human history. Our Autistic sons and daughters need you to push the scientific community of today the same way, inspire and challenge them to find a cure for Autism by the end of this decade. We need a champion and from where I’m standing saving 1.5 million lives plus future generations is a far greater achievement than putting a man on the moon.
Ask the X Prize foundation to set up a $10 million prize for our cure, if they are not interested we can raise the money ourselves through Autism Speaks the “A” prize, (Managing Editor's Note: Tim and I had a good laugh over that suggestion but maybe if the President asks, they'll "listen" so to speak) there are so many of us it will only be a few bucks a head. Attached is a check for the first $100.00 for the fund, and I will mortgage my house and liquidate every asset we have if needed.
The reason we need to go this route is simple, nothing has changed in the last 10 years, millions have been wasted on the same gene studies, and we are no closer to a cure. The CDC has stood by and watched the numbers of new cases grow with horrifying callousness. We need to get government and big pharma out of the way and put a bounty on Autism's head. I often think about the guys who came up with the HIV protocol they were denied grants and worked out of a garage in Jersey, these are the kind of people who will find our cure.
Sam was about three and half. He very much struggled with speaking and communication. It was a truly difficult and trying time for all of us. The ASD diagnosis was still so new to us. Out hearts ached for our son, for the unknown, for what might become of him. We were terrified. Sam was frustrated with no means to connect to others, to have his wants and needs known. The world had become a strange and foreign place for him. Where all things had once been right with the world, now nothing was.
We were outside. I was messing in my flower beds, something I love to do. As Sam and I walked alongside our home, Sam paused. He bent over and plucked a wild violet, from amongst the grassy abyss. He then turned to me and said, "fower," as he handed it to me. I recall being so taken aback that I had to stop and really think about what had occurred. He had so few words at that time. The vast majority of his words had long ago disappeared. We were working feverishly to try and gain them back. He was utterly disengaged with his environment, including us, his parents. He had long ago stopped responding to even the sound of his own name. We had no way of knowing if we might possibly succeed in helping him to regain those skills now lost to autism.
I was in awe......I know my heart most certainly skipped a beat. I may have actually stopped breathing momentarily. I cannot begin to accurately describe the pure joy that overcame me. Not only did Sam engage with me by giving me a "fower" from a weed patch, but he also called it by name, "fower." It still brings tears to my eyes the same way it did that Mother's Day so many years ago. It still fills my heart to overflowing. There was hope! There IS hope!!
To this day, I don't pull wild violets out of my otherwise meticulously manicured flower beds. They shall ne'er again be simply another annoyance to me. What was once readily thought of as merely an eyesore had now become a genuine treasure. They make me smile and give me great pleasure. They fill my heart as I trust there are better days ahead.......They symbolize HOPE! ♥
I still have that beautiful violet "fower" pressed inside my grandmother's Bible. And, I still very much have hope for my son and his future. Believe.........
Sam's MAMA (Mom on A Mission for Autism)
This extraordinary setting in Cedar Park, Texas includes an ranch house on 4.5 acres of pastureland plus a horse barn – a fenced rural retreat in the middle of this booming Austin-area subdivision offering opportunities from high-touch to high-tech. Campers can interact with horses, sheep and chickens and cultivate gardens; take art and video classes on site; and participate in camper-guided tours of YouTube, Facebook, and the Web. Participants can also elect to take classes at the nearby Austin Community College (ACC) campus. AIM will work with Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) as well as neighborhood restaurants and other businesses to provide job opportunities for campers. Transportation to and from school and work will be provided by the camp.
Angela Day, AIM Board President, says “This is an extraordinary community. Vocational, educational, and life skills training is designed specifically for the needs of those on the entire ASD spectrum, from non-verbal autism to high-functioning Aspergers. We are excited about our exceptional staff, who will make sure each resident and family member who walks through our doors feels safe and secure, and sees a bright future.”