Monday, April 2, 2012

The Impact of Autism

Today is World Autism Awareness Day.  There will be events spreading awareness and raising funds.  Some will be showing support just by wearing blue.

While I'm not aware of any events taking place here in Tulsa, this might be a great time to mention that the Autism Center of Tulsa is having their fundraising run on May 19th at Hunter Park.  We won't be able to participate this year, but that doesn't mean you can't!  There is a fun run (1 mile walk) and a 5k run that morning.  You can register individually or join a team.  Anyone can form their own team.  Children with autism who have a team get to be the team hero and enjoy a victory lap and trophy or medal (not sure what they get this year).  It is a fun family day supporting a wonderful organization!  For more information and to register, just click here and for information about ACT go here.

Did you know...

  • Just recently the CDC came out with new statistics.  The prevalence has been increased to 1 in 88 children has been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder.  That's a lot.  For boys that is 1 in 54 and girls 1 in 252. If you have kids who are not on the spectrum, I can guarantee anyone in public school has or has had one in their class.
  • A new survey has come out showing 63% of children with autism are bullied in school.  The research found these children to be three times more likely than their siblings to be bullied.  Children with Aspergers were more prone to bullying due to the fact that they are often placed in typical classrooms instead of the special education setting.  Here's the link.
  • There is speculation that many historical figures had Autism or Aspergers.  Did Einstein have Aspergers? What about Jefferson?  Could be.  You can view that list here.
Parents with kids who have autism suffer heartbreak in the most unusual places.  We have experienced judgement and isolation in the grocery store, team sports, PTA, private Christian school, friendships and church just to name a few.
To put it lightly, Autism has changed my life drastically.  

Here are some of the blessings this experience has brought to my life:
  • I have learned to appreciate minor accomplishments.  Well, minor to you anyway.  My most recent joy came from the fact that Michael eats lunch in the cafeteria with other kids.  The average parent takes this for granted.  Not me.  After 2 solid years of eating alone, my son sits with others by choice.  I have prayed for this!
  • I'd be willing to bet I spend a lot more time at school or dealing with school than the average parent.  This is out of necessity and not by choice.  I have met some of the most amazing teachers and found that they care deeply about my child.  Based on some of his behavior, this is no small accomplishment.  
  • I have learned to fully appreciate a day or even an event without a meltdown.  I don't think I have to explain this one.
  • The friendships I have formed with other parents of children on the spectrum have meant the world to me.  I met these people because of autism but our friendship goes far beyond that.  It is so nice, though, to have friends who can identify with my life.
  • Because of Michael, my friend Christine and I formed a school club at two sites called Bixby Buddies.  We train these kiddos about disabilities and how they can help their peers who have them.  We talk about bullying and practice appropriate responses.  We make posters for the hallways for Special Olympics athletes.  We aim to spread kindness.  These kids are inspirational.  The younger school now has 100 kids (grades 4-6) and is run by a special education teacher and a counselor.
  • Because of Michael, we now have the Asperger Mom Network.  We are not a huge group but we help each other immensely.  It's all about moms supporting moms.  I've been mostly grateful for the opportunity to help moms just starting out on their journey.  It's something we didn't have but wish we had.  When I first heard Michael's diagnosis, I knew this was my purpose.  I didn't want other moms to have to feel alone in their journey.  I'm grateful to have Heather and Julie leading with me.  I couldn't possibly do this without them.
  • A year ago I sat in church and had a moment of clarity.  The clarity was that this church did not have my family's best interest at heart.  It was a sad, heartbreaking day.  Nevermind the anger involved at the injustice or the fact that my dear friends still don't seem to "get it."  There is still a blessing.  God had something better in mind for our family and that place is Life Church.  Their acceptance of my child was immediate and without the slightest hesitation.  They have shown Christ's love to our family and ministered to us in new ways that has helped heal my heart.  The sermons at our new church are amazing and available on podcast for free.  I highly recommend checking it out!
There's a sign in my kitchen that says "Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light."  How true that our brokenness can let in new perspective and joy.  I have experienced it many times.  

Do I wish autism didn't exist?  Absolutely.
Would I trade any of my experiences? No.

Some days really stink.  
Some days are defined by Michael's autism.
Those are not my favorite days.
But every day is still a blessing.
A huge one.

Jacob, Baloney & Michael on Michael's 13th Birthday

6 comments:

Territory Mom said...

You're an amazing mom and advocate. Thanks for all your hard work.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Dittos and more dittos.

Great post B!! Nobody tells it like you do.

Leanna said...

I agree with both above, awesome mom and advocate and you always rock at putting into words the emotion and thoughts and facts....you find a way to see the positive and sometimes funny side of this special needs life and still show that sometimes it is anything but! Even though Cole doesn't have autism he brings along so many of the same things and I can so relate!! You are one of those special friendships for me and I'm thankful!! Love ya Baloney!!

Dawn said...

You nailed it! And like the others, thank you for all you do to reach out and help others who need it. xoxo
You've been such a wonderful, helpful friend - especially when I've needed it with Courtney!

Kim said...

Looking forward to donating this year. How can I do that without you guys running? Can I sponsor Courtney?

Kim said...

I want to donate!! How do I do that without yall being there? Can I put a donation in still in Michael's name?

Autism Links - Educate Yourself

  • www.aspergermomnetwork.com
  • http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/
  • http://www.autism-society.org
  • http://www.okautism.org/homepage/
  • http://www.aspect.org.au/publications/Thinking%20and%20Learning%20in%20Autism.pdf
  • www.autismtulsa.org
  • http://www.oklahomadisabilitylaw.org/
  • http://www.asperger.net/index.htm
  • http://www.rdiconnect.com/
  • http://embracingaspergers.com/

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