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April is Autism Awareness Month!

Posted by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 1:47 PM
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Please check out these links in support of all families out there who are living with Autism:

 

http://www.autismspeaks.org/press/autism_awareness_month_2008.php

http://www.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=research_awareness

 

http://www.autismawareness.ca/index.htm

http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/highlights/April2003/autism/

http://www.karensscrapsandgraphics.com/

 

If you have something to add, please feel free!!

*HUGS* to all from us  :)

by on Apr. 1, 2010 at 1:47 PM
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peasntatersmom
by Leslie on Apr. 10, 2010 at 10:35 AM

 

Helping Your Autistic Child

April 10, 2010 2:53 AM

Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, Rodney Peete, share many hopeful, positive experiences they've had with their autistic son, RJ, 12, and how they've managed to help him grow and blossom with lots of love and support, in "Early Coffee" on "The Early Show Saturday Edition."

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6382119n

peasntatersmom
by Leslie on Apr. 11, 2010 at 12:03 PM

 

For Abilene mommas

 

Are you going to be at the zoo on May 8th?

Are you going to participate in the Walk for Autism Speaks? 

Registration in at 9 and the walk starts at 10.

http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/westtexas

(not asking for donations just wanting to know if people are walking)

 

For any body interested I think you can delete the west texas part and find a walk in your area.

peasntatersmom
by Leslie on Apr. 13, 2010 at 1:48 PM

Yesterday I took my daughters to the zoo.  It was a consolation prize, of sorts, as Spring Break is coming to an end, and we started my older daughter's allergy shots during the break.  She had another round of shots yesterday, and I thought a trip to the zoo would be a good way to take her dramatic-leaning mind off the searing pain and indignity.

As my older daughter also has food allergies, I had packed some snacks to take to the zoo for a picnic lunch.  The shots were at lunchtime, so we headed straight to the zoo afterwards and once there, directly to an area where we could sit and eat in some shade.  There is a place behind the petting zoo where there is sometimes a concession stand, with a bathroom nearby.  It has picnic tables set up underneath a large awning which is by a fence that borders the zoo.  The concession stand wasn't open, and so this area was empty and quiet.  After I had pulled out our lunch fare (water, allergen free snack bars, raisins and peanuts, and bananas), we began to eat.  Every once in a while, a family would come by to use the restroom, but for the most part, we ate in relative peace.  This spot, by the way, is in a back corner of the zoo--not exactly on the beaten path, and not on the way to any exhibits.  The only company that stayed pretty constant were the birds that were hoping we'd share our lunch with them.

I was facing the direction of the paved sidewalk that led back toward the exhibits, and the direction from which most of the zoo guests came in search of the restroom. I was thinking about asking my older daughter to keep an eye on my younger one (who has autism) so that I could make use of the facilities myself, when suddenly I heard some motion behind me, and then a male voice talking about doves making a nest in the shrubs.  I was surprised and momentarily alarmed.  I took stock of where my girls were, and sized up this stranger to determine if he was any threat to us--remembering that this area is fairly secluded, and he came from a part of the zoo that isn't really open to visitors.

It didn't take long, however, for me to realize something about this man, as he went into enthusiastic detail about different varieties of doves, that he eventually volunteered about himself.  He has autism; I had guessed that within a few minutes of our conversation.  "Ospbergers", as he put it (meaning, for those who aren't familiar with the different labels, "Asperger's Syndrome") is what his diagnosis is called.  He told me that his name is Andrew, that he is 34 years old and that he is married.  He loves to study doves, and went into detail about the two varieties that could be seen in our area--I believe they were a common grey dove and a ring-necked dove (although, to be honest, I was more interested in him than the doves). 

I told him that Lillian, who was sitting next to me, also is diagnosed with autism.  He asked me which kind, explaining that there are different degrees, then before I could answer, said that it didn't matter--that people think that those with autism are stupid, but he knows they are not.  This was so heart wrenching to me.  My daughter with autism is six years old, and I've often worried about her future--everything from bullying by classmates to what her life will be as an adult.  Andrew told me that he was picked on from a young age, and said that people could be very cruel to those on the spectrum--in fact, to anyone with a disorder.  He even mentioned how unkind people were to those with Down's Syndrome.  He is acutely aware of how people treat others--something that is not usually credited to people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).  The uninformed tend to think that those on the spectrum are devoid of human emotion and oblivious to unkind words or treatment.

It made me think.  A few years ago, before I knew about autism, and before my daughter was diagnosed, how would I have reacted to a strange man coming up to me and starting a conversation about doves?  I'm sure I would have been polite, but would have looked for any excuse to get out of there as soon as possible.  I'm not proud to admit that.  Now, of course, I recognize that he needed to be accepted, and wanted to share his wealth of knowledge with someone who would listen kindly.  I thought about how I want people to treat Lillian.  Perhaps I'm "paying it forward", trying to ensure a certain amount of acceptance for my little daughter as she grows and outgrows her "cuteness factor".  I know that there will come a time when people will be less forgiving of her odd behaviors as she starts to look less like a cherubic angel and more like a grown-up.

I also know, though, that Andrew has a right to be treated as a human.  He is painfully aware that he is different.  As he was telling me of the abuse he encountered growing up, abuse from kids his own age who picked on him for being different, I felt a heavy weight on my heart.  He told me that he had many times considered suicide.  While I would never have picked on anyone, I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to defend, nor have been brave enough to try to forge a friendship with someone like Andrew, simply because I was ignorant and fearful of people who were different.  I know that a vast majority of people are still like I was--fearful and ignorant.  I don't mean that as an insult, but merely as a fact that we are not taught to understand and accept those who face challenges like autism, Down's Syndrome, CP, or other disorders or disabilities.  Talking with Andrew really highlighted the pain we cause by our own ignorance.  We can't treat other people like that.  It's just wrong.

Meeting Andrew left me with a mixed bag of emotions that will stay with me for a long time.  He is a grown man who has suffered the stigma of being different.  He says he forgives those who were cruel to him, but he wishes that people wouldn't be so mean.  He is proud that he lives independently and proud that he has a wife.  He lives off of SSI (which is below poverty-level), but would lose it if he were to find a job.  He supplements his meager SSI benefits by working odd jobs that pay him "under the table", wanting to provide adequate support for his wife.  He doesn't drive; he relies on public transportation.  He spends most of his free time studying doves.  He has a positive outlook, though, and seems to enjoy his life, which is as much as I could hope for either of my girls.

As we finished our lunch, and were ready to tour the zoo, I told Andrew that I enjoyed talking with him.  I gave him information about my autism support group and invited him to come and talk with us.  Those of us with young children on the autism spectrum often have a hard time imagining our children as adults, and wonder what their futures hold.  While I can't say that Andrew is proof that our children will live independent lives, I can say it is proof that it's a possibility.  As with all children, children on the spectrum are unique.  We can't extrapolate the experiences of one to fit the futures of all.  Meeting Andrew, though, has given me much to think about--not the least of which is his capacity to forgive those who have hurt him with cruelty, and his capacity to find ways to make his life worth living.  I think he has an inherent wisdom that we "neurotypical" ones often seem to lack. 

So, Andrew, I knew this, and you know this, but in honor of you, I'll share some of your wisdom.  Autism does not equal stupid.  Autism does not mean incapable of feeling.  Autism does give a unique perspective of the world.  It does mean that those with autism are as worthy of respect and kindness as anyone else.  And it can mean a wisdom and knowledge that many of us could only hope to have.  I'm glad I met you, Andrew.  Had I been too fearful to talk with you, I would have missed out on the lessons you have to teach.  Thank you.

Tags: april is autism awareness month

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