Autism One! May 19 through the 24, 2009!
I attended the Autism One conference in Chicago, IL. Autism One lit a fire under my ass!!! (I know, those of you who know me are probably thinking, did she really need that? LOL.) I am still flying high!!! I've not even completely unpacked my suitcase yet (yes I washed my dirty laundry). My suitcase is still being moved between the bed and floor for therapy sessions and sleeping purposes. I may get to it this week. I've just had way more important things to do and honestly I have thought it may just stay that way until next year, because I’ll be there for sure. I'll have less packing to next year, right?
I flew into Chicago and Autism One on Tuesday afternoon (May 19th), and Tuesday night I was hanging out with those who have been the backbones of our community. Immediately I knew each and every one of them as family. I wish it wasn't this way, honestly, because I met these family members because of autism. And autism sucks!!! But I am so glad I did because meeting them and connecting has given me; a tremendous spiritual lift, given me more tools and opportunity to help families and kids currently in autism, and to "pay it forward" to help new families, and ultimately to help stop the madness behind what the cause is of autism.
Tuesday night hanging out in the presidential suite with my new family, I was blessed to see a preview of THIS which was going to be shown during the Autism One Dinner and Auction. It Is A Must Watch!!! It was an indicator of the week to come. The beginning of the power of Autism One and the rest of the family of Autism Warriors I would meet! I almost could not stop my tears. What I didn't know was that the Autism File Campaign video would be altered one last time to include a picture of the military moms taken on the last night of the conference by Louis Felix Photography. To learn more about Autism One GO HERE, and to order a subscription of The Autism File Magazine GO HERE. I've ordered mine for sure!!! When I saw the Final Cut I must say, it made me damn proud to be an autism mom and a military autism mom. Learn how you can get involved and be part of the Autism File Campaign HERE.
At this family gathering Tuesday night I was invited to participate Wednesday morning on Autism One Radio, Live With Curt Linderman (lower left corner - Help/Download Shows - click the May calendar - and scroll to May 20th). I must admit, I was a little intimidated, but I was there for a reason; to represent our military children, and my own concerns as a parent. There was no way in hell I was going to say no. The show was great! I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I’m not one for public speaking. I then ran my tail off for the rest of the day for Autism One, and had an incredible amount of fun in the process. I learned so much just working and talking with people. It was amazing! There is not one person who I knew was going to be at Autism One that I did not get to meet and spend some time with. WOW!!!
Many parents began to arrive late Wednesday and into Thursday morning. I was busy volunteering and attending presentations when I was able. It is amazing to me, because I gained knowledge not only from the presentations I attended, but from talking to people at booths, and just running into people randomly.
One family in particular arrived on Friday afternoon. I had just met Jenny McCarthy and was still flying from meeting her (thank you Jenny for wearing the Autism Salutes pin I gave you), and I was sitting in the business center trying to type something up quick for the auction. I looked up and I saw Deanna. I screamed out her name and jumped up and we both ran towards each other embracing, then looking, then embracing, then looking, then embracing, and bawling. I met Scott, Deanna’s Warrior hubby and Warrior Father after we were done with our girl mush (sorry I have to lighten the mood – it get’s intense as we know all to well). Deanna and Scott’s first born son Ian died shortly after birth from a Hep B vaccine.
Deanna and I are sisters; of that neither of us have a doubt. At one point after meeting, after months of talking on the phone and emailing, I took a moment after I got my “work” done, and looked around and cried for a moment… My thoughts… There are too many parents here... there are too many children. There are too many children with autism and other vaccine injuries, and too many deaths. Those who have read my previous writings know I’ve known all along the “true” number of children (and adults) with autism, have to understand how overwhelming it was; yet at the same time understand what a kindred spirit I felt, as we are all here seeking the same answer. And that is how to heal our children.
I walked the mini walk for Elias Tembenis with some dear family, both old and new. It was short, but beautiful, and especially knowing I was walking in honor of Elias. The pain I feel in my heart thinking about what it might feel like to really lose your child drops me to my knees in heartfelt agony.
Deanna and Scott, and Harry and Gina are Warrior parents and I am so grateful and proud they are part of our community! You can read about Ian HERE and Elias HERE. Deanna, Scott, Gina, and Harry inspire me to my very core. They could have let their loss overwhelm them, they could have walked away. Instead they fight every day for OUR kids. I have a name for them. Hero Warrior Parents!
Thank you Ian. Thank you Elias. Your spirit's will continue to light the way for parents and children now, and those to come. You are Little Hero Warrior Men!
Friday night there was karaoke, and I’m sorry, I refused. I HAD a phobia of public speaking. I went to go get a drink and I ran into Ed (shame on you if you don’t know who he is by now LOL), and I was not aware of the memorial for Liz Birt at midnight (shame on me) that he informed me of, well… Liz was tragically killed not long after Nathan was diagnosed, and I remember the grief I felt when I read the news. I may not sing, but I can make sure I announce this because every single person in that room needed to be there, and I did exactly that. OMG!!! You had to be there. The memorial for Liz was so poignant and beautiful, I cry as I sit here in my garage writing just thinking about it. God bless and rest her soul.
I will forever keep my candle. The candle I held in honor of your memory will be passed on to my children. Thank you Liz, for all that you did.
My last night... Saturday night… the Auction... The Auction Moms had already had their PICTURE taken (I was one of them), we were seated, and awaiting dinner.
Sam Debold, beloved son of Vicky Debold, recovered from autism, was introduced by our wonderful and ceaseless healer, researcher, and father himself, Dr. Andy Wakefield. Sam played one of my all time favorite songs, Hotel California. Before Hotel California, is the theme to Harry Potter. Sam is 11 years old, and he is amazing!!! I used to listen to Hotel California all the time when I was growing up (it was on the radio then), and because my dad had it on vinyl (is that how you spell it LOL). You can see Dr. Andy Wakefield introduce Sam and hear his performance. Pop over HERE on Age Of Autism, then read the post and scroll for the You Tube 1. All the videos are labeled in the order that they took place. Sam also played and sang Sunday Bloody Sunday. What talent Sam has. He WOWED us!!!
The evening moved me in ways I'll never be able to describe. There is a fun part here; I refused to sing at karaoke Friday night, but I've talked with Vicky since Sam performed, and told her that if Sam was going to play Hotel California I could maybe be convinced. I guess I'd better get practicing, yet I'm giving myself the latitude to chicken out as I think Sam might kick my arse LOL!!!
I promised myself a few things before the conference; I am going to learn a ton, meet lots of people, and have a blast at AUTISM ONE!!! I say I did all three in pretty equal amounts.
Yep, I think I’m just gonna keep moving that suitcase of mine around. I’ll be there next year! Do I really have to wait that long to have another chocolate martini? LOL! Yummy! Autism One is truly the most beautiful unification of spirit I’ve ever been witness to, and I am so proud to be part of and continue to serve our community! You’ll be there in 2010, right? Yes, you will. Autism One lit a fire…
Angela Warner is an Air Force spouse and mother of four children, two of whom are recovering/recovered from autism. Angela founded the Autism Salutes blog, contributes to Age of Autism, and will be writing for Autism One on military issues.