Friday, August 31, 2012

Donating to the Sahara Cares Autism Carnival

If you have reached this website in an effort to donate to the Fall Carnival for Autism, please go to:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Alex's Autism Video

(Scroll to bottom of page for the video).

Alex is our 13 year old autistic son. He is high functioning. He has attended his neighborhood school with the help of a part-time aide. He has progressed tremendously over the years with the help of speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills training, and other interventions.

He still struggles immensely with social skills, despite all the hours spent training him to engage in appropriate social behavior. As Alex has moved into his teenaged years, the social aspect of his disability has become a severe handicap, as he desperately wants to have friends, but does not know how to go about getting them (and then keep them). His interest in girls has also increased, creating some interesting and awkward situations.

A few months ago, a good friend of mine had the courage to call me and relay some information to me. She had witnessed Alex in some awkward and sometimes inappropriate situations involving his peers. She wanted to know what she could do in those situations to make them more comfortable for all involved. For the next hour we brainstormed what we could do to make Alex's interaction with others more positive for everyone. We discovered that even though many of the boys and girls in the neighborhood have grown up with Alex, they did not know he was autistic. They just thought he was "weird".

We decided it would be beneficial to gather all these kids together in one place to teach them a little about autism and Alex. A date was set and Mark (my husband) and I spent hours discussing what information was important to share and then putting it all together in a way that wouldn't bore these teenagers to tears. In an effort to get more of them to come, we arranged to have the presentation take place at the local pizza joint. We reserved the back room and asked for 50 chairs.

When the night finally arrived, Mark and I went down to the restaurant and set up. We got the entire room arranged and then looked at each other and wondered out loud if anyone was actually going to come. There was a big NBA playoff game that night that our local team was playing in, it was the end of the school year and the kids were restless, and quite frankly, they all had better things to do than come down and listen to us talk about autism.

By the time we started our presentation, it was standing room only. The support from our neighborhood was astounding. They came, they ate, and they listened...intently. They asked questions and they paid attention. Several of them found me after the presentation was over to ask specific questions about Alex's behavior and to find out what they could do in those situations. It is a great tribute to the kids in our neighborhood and to their parents that such profound respect was shown that night.

The first part of the presentation was mostly informational, with several funny stories thrown in for effect. At the end of the PowerPoint presentation, we showed the kids a short video. It is a video of Alex that highlights some facts associated with autism and then emphasizes that he's a kid like everyone else who just wants to have friends. It was our hope, that after the facts were covered, that we could touch their hearts and their souls, and move them to action. We hoped to motivate them to look past the differences that are obvious and look for the similarities, which are there, but take some effort to find.

We think it was a success, as we have watched Alex's peers interact with him in a more positive manner. They took the information given them and they applied it. Alex's interactions continue to improve with the coaching and instruction that he is receiving from his peers. Right now, this is the best therapy money can buy. Having his own peers, people he looks up to and respects, teaching him proper social behavior is invaluable. For this, we will always be grateful to the youth in the neighborhood who have adjusted to accommodate someone who is a little different from them. We have all discovered that a little understanding goes a very, very long way.

Since the first night that we gave this presentation, we have had the wonderful opportunity of being invited to present it again and again to various classes at the local high school (thank-you to the extraordinary Community of Caring teachers). We hope to go back again in the fall, as it is a great thing to see tolerance, understanding, and compassion grow in a community. We have watched many kids (and adults) rise to the occasion and take Alex by the hand and show him the way. A million "thank-you's" would not be enough to express our gratitude. To those in our neighborhood, and especially to our family members, we express our sincere appreciation for just being who you are and loving without judging.

The video is attached. A very special thanks to Brady Dunn for working with us to create this video; he dedicated a lot of time to producing and editing this video until it was perfect. If you like the song that accompanies the video, it is by the band Five for Fighting. They wrote the song specifically for the autism cause. Each time it is downloaded, the band donates the money to an autism charity.