Speechless with Carly Fleischmann and Channing Tatum

Carly Fleischmann was diagnosed with Autism as long as she can remember but that has never stopped her from moving forward. Her story has been featured on ABC, CNN and just about everywhere. She has co-authored a book “Carly’s Voice”, developed a website “Carly’s Cafe” and made headlines when, at age eleven, she started to communicate by computer. Her story is nothing short of amazing. Words like “inspirational” are tagged alongside her name to millions of people around the world.

In 2014 it was reported that Carly loss some language skills from a response to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and people have wondered how she is. Today, Carly is back and launched “Speechless with Carly Fleischmann”, as the first non-verbal talk show. Her first interview is with Channing Tatum!

We love you Carly!

‘One of Many’ Truck Helps Drive Autism Awareness

Autism Truck "One of Many"

If you were in Wildwood, Florida, this past weekend for 75 Chrome Shop’s annual truck show, you wouldn’t have been able to miss this Ausome® “One of Many” truck. One of our readers sent us the video below, which clearly shows the truck’s many custom-built items depicting the popular Autism puzzle pieces. This beautiful big rig has been spreading Autism Awareness every time it hits the road.

The truck is the brainchild of Mike Manuel of Michael A. Manuel Trucking in Front Royal, Virginia. Mike enjoys building show trucks, and this, his fourth one, was inspired by his daughter, Kara. The idea of a truck dedicated to autism awareness came to Mike a few years ago, and he began talking to companies and gathering sponsorships while attending various shows.

When the truck was ready to be built, Manuel Trucking still had sponsorships available and Brandon Key of Rush Peterbilt, jumped onboard. His daughter, Maggie, also has autism, and he and Mike shared stories about their daughters as the truck was taking shape. The names of both girls are on the truck, along with the various logos and names of the people and businesses that helped make the truck become a reality.

While there is no set schedule for the One of Many truck, it did make a recent visit to a middle school in Winchester, Virginia, where 20 of the students are on the autism spectrum. It also appeared in the parade around Bristol Speedway before the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 race on April 16. The next big show you can see the truck is at Fitzgerald Glider Kits in Crossville, Tennessee, in July.

A Manuel Trucking company representative was careful to stress that they and the truck weren’t “affiliated with any one charity foundation.” Instead, they “want to be able to bring it or show it wherever to help out any and all charities donating to the [autism] cause.”

Honk if you’re a fan. We know we are.

‘Quiet Hour’ to Benefit Shoppers With Special Needs

ASDA Living

A store manager in the U.K. recently decided to roll out a “quiet hour” at his ASDA Living store to benefit people with autism and other special needs. Simon Lea was moved to implement this new concept after witnessing a boy having what appeared to be a tantrum in the store a few weeks ago. Simon said the child was screaming and kicking and carrying on loudly, and the child’s mom, who looked “drained,” told him that her son has autism and was having a meltdown. Simon, who has two kids of his own, gave the boy a toy football to play with, which helped calm him down and enabled his mom to finish shopping.

Afterward, Simon was still considering the situation and wondering what he could do to help out customers with special needs. He talked to an employee who has a child with autism and to customers themselves, and came up with the idea of the quiet hour–a time when the escalators stop running and both the TV displays and the in-store music will be silenced. Additionally, there will be no use of the store-wide announcement system. Although the store may still have colorful displays of products, the overwhelming sounds will no longer be an issue during that one hour.

Simon is especially empathetic because he suffered from anxiety for years. “I used to absolutely hate going into busy stores,” he explained to the Manchester Evening News. Furthermore, he’s learned to judge less, saying, “Six months ago I would have said ‘control your child’ even though I’ve got children. But speaking to people with autism and disabled people has helped me think about how I can make it a better place to shop.”

The first quiet hour will be held on Saturday, May 7, at 8 a.m. The ASDA Living store is located in Cheetham Hill, Manchester.

These Are the Moments

These Are The Moments

Running around this morning, I was trying to get myself ready for work, and my kids ready for school. Mia wasn’t getting up and, after calling down to her multiple times, I knew I was going to have to go down and get her out of bed myself. Before I even made it to her room, I could feel my frustration level rising.

It was nothing she had done; it was just one of those days.

And, while I normally have the patience to handle what I knew to be coming, today I felt tapped out. On top of having ADHD and Autism, my daughter has ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). For those of you who have a child with ODD, you know that it’s a real treat. You almost can’t understand the apparent absurdity of it until you’ve witnessed it firsthand.

I‘ve come to realize that every morning my daughter’s first words will be “No,” or some semblance of that. All mornings start the same:

“Good morning sunshine! Ready to get up? ” No.

“Time to get up babe, Breakfast is ready.” No it isn’t.

“Hey Mia, look out your window! It snowed last night!” No it didn’t.

“What a nice day! You’re going to have fun playing outside!” No I won’t.

“Let’s get up and get ready! You have swimming lessons tonight!” No I don’t.

And on, and on, and on.

When my husband takes his turn and I hear him say, “Alright, let’s go. Time to get up!” I catch myself in the next room thinking, “No it isn’t.” I know it’s not her fault. She can’t control this. She has barely opened her eyes or woken out of sleep, and regardless of the circumstance, it’s her first response. Understanding that this is part of her genetic makeup (Who wants to say no all the time?), this part of my morning usually gives me perspective, a dose of patience, and a sense of protectiveness, and acts as an early-morning reminder of what this little girl has to deal with.

As predicted, we went through the same song and dance this morning. She said no, I lifted her little 8-year-old self out of bed, she put up a fuss, and then eventually we started the school morning routine. Only this morning I didn’t feel that patience; I couldn’t find the perspective. I felt frustrated. Please God, just one school morning. Why can’t she just get up and be happy? As someone who doesn’t hide their emotions well—a blessing and a curse if you ask my husband—I stayed quiet. I have learned that there’s no point in getting upset. I bit my tongue, said my silent prayers (pleas), and started through the motions of the morning.

Today, because she decided that she was going to wear a dress that she can’t get into without assistance, I was quietly kneeling down in front of her, doing up the buttons on the front of her dress when I felt it. Two little arms wrap around me, followed by a kiss on my neck. As affectionate as Mia can be, she has never kissed me on the neck. In that moment, processing all at once how much I love her, how sweet her intentions were, how extremely innocent she is, and fighting the guilt I had for being frustrated—she told me she loved me, thanked me for helping her get ready, and hugged me again. With that, she skipped out of the room, ready to start her day.

These are the moments: the moments that make the hardest of days manageable, the moments that make me so thankful that Mia is my daughter and that I’m the one that God chose to deal with all of the perceived absurdity and to help her navigate the challenges that are yet to come. These are the moments where what I stress about is put into perspective and I stop to appreciate the true joys that come with raising a child with special needs. It’s not always a kiss. It’s when she says she’s sorry for something that I know she can’t help, when she runs to me after school as if she hasn’t seen me in ages, when she looks at me desperately during a basketball tryout because she hadn’t realized there was so much running involved, and yes—sometimes it’s when I get a kiss on the neck, at that very same moment when I’m feeling like I’m not enough.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but as for today… I’m thankful for the moments—every single one of them.

The Hardest Part

Angela Conrad sons2I have been asked before, “What is the hardest part of having a child with autism?”

Honestly, when I am asked this question, I don’t know what to say because there isn’t just one area that is the hardest. How could I choose when everything about severe autism is challenging and hard?

Is it battling the daily meltdowns because he is unable to communicate to me what he wants? This area is extremely difficult. I know what it feels like to not be able to figure out what he wants, so I can’t even begin to imagine what Trenton feels like not being able to communicate to me.

Is it battling severe sleep deprivation on a daily basis? Sleep deprivation is pure torture. Even though my child doesn’t require the amount of sleep that an average person should require, I sure do. It is torture to have to go day to day on only a few hours of sleep.

Is it knowing that your child will, more than likely, never be able to live on his own? This haunts me every day! It is never out of my mind… NEVER!

Is it the judgment and lack of empathy from the public? I’ve received the looks from the general public while trying to take Trenton out. They don’t understand why a perfectly normal-looking child is behaving the way he does. It sure doesn’t make the stress any easier on me.

Is it the sensory problems that accompany my children or the inability of Trenton to be able to eat anything other than 5 certain food items? It is beyond difficult managing Trenton’s daily sensory problems and food problems. On some days, Trenton needs a lot of input and pressure on his body. On other days, he needs to swing a lot.

Is it the stress of trying to keep my child safe because he is an eloper and will escape and never look back the second that he gets away? Raising a child who is unable to understand danger is very stressful. The older he gets, the harder it is to keep him safe from running away.

Is it the stress of potty training for one straight year now and being no closer to achieving that goal than we were 6 months ago? He goes from smearing his feces to urinating on my carpet. When will he get potty trained??

Is it their obsessions and how Andrew verbally expresses everything to people? My child with mild autism does not have a filter and he has said some of the least appropriate things to people before.  His lack of being able to communicate and socialize properly is very evident through his obsessions, and conversations that he has with people about his obsessions.

Is it simply trying to get people to understand that, even though both of my children have autism, they are on the opposite ends of the spectrum? Therefore, their challenges are completely different and you can’t compare them.

Is it the stress of losing family members, a marriage, and friends? All three have happened to me and I know they have happened to you too. It is hard to get everyone to understand autism because some autism just simply “looks” too normal, and many people think that you are just exaggerating because they have never seen your child do what you say he does. Oh the stress…it never ends, does it!

Is it dealing with the change in a routine?  To be truthful, this is very devastating and can make or break their day, week, or even month when a change occurs in their daily schedule.

My list could go on and on. As you can see, it is hard to answer that question.  Autism comes with many challenges. The challenges do not only affect the person with autism, but it also affects the whole entire family.

So, the next time I get asked, “What’s the hardest part of raising a child with autism?” I believe I just may say, “All of it.”

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Angela and her family reside in Terre Haute, Indiana, where they moved to get more help for her son with severe autism. She was born and raised in a small town in southern Illinois where her love for animals and helping others blossomed.

She enjoys sharing the honest and real side of autism through her writing. Her writing may not apply to every family with a child with autism, but it is sure to apply to the families raising children on the severe end of the spectrum.

To read more of Angela’s journey please visit her website or like her Facebook page.

Baseball Game Hits a Home Run for Autism Awareness

We asked Awenesty of Autism blog writer Kate Hooven to write an introduction for this local news video showcasing a local baseball game that she organized for Autism Awareness Day. It was a memorable day for her as, besides spreading awareness, she also got to watch both of her sons participating.

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Ever since he can remember, Ryan was dragged from ball field to ball field to attend his big brother Kyle’s baseball games. For a kid who’s not a fan of bugs, heat, wind, rain or cold, he endured a lot to support his big brother. During many games, Ryan sat in the car because it was too cold, too windy, too bright, too hot or too buggy, but when Kyle would step up to the plate, Ryan’s voice would carry across the baseball diamond as he popped his head out of the van’s sun roof and cheered for his brother. Ryan has always been Kyle’s No. 1 fan.

To have the tables turn on a cool, windy spring day, and hear Kyle’s voice drift across the infield cheering on Ryan, was a beautiful turn of events. It was the CV Eagles first-ever Autism Awareness Baseball Game and Kyle was crouched down behind home plate waiting for his little brother Ryan to step up on the mound and throw out the ceremonial first pitch. From where I stood along the first-base line, I could see Kyle’s smile, his pride and his admiration for his little brother— Kyle has never seen him as his autistic brother, only as his brother.

On that cold, windy day, Ryan said happily, “I felt like I had fans for the first time ever today.” Little does Ryan know that, although there were many fans over the years sitting in the stands, cheering on his big brother as Kyle made diving catches, turned two and ripped the ball down the left-field line, Ryan has always had a fan on and off the ball field who cheers for him louder than anyone.

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Kate and her family have lived in Mechanicsburg, PA, for the past 20 years. When Kate is not busy advocating “different, not less,” she enjoys reading, binging on Netflix and spending time with her family and friends.

Kate HoovenIn addition to her advocacy service and her blog, Kate is also a Justice System Consultant for PA’s ASERT (Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training) Collaborative. With her prior experience working in PA’s Juvenile Justice System and her passion for advocating for children and adults living with autism, Kate enjoys her time training probation officers, police officers, attorneys, judges, correctional officers and others employed in the justice system in order to raise awareness of the impact an autism diagnosis has on those that become involved in our juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Kate hopes that, through her writing, she is sharing a real, raw and AWEnest look at how autism impacts her family, and in doing so, she may help other parents recognize that they are not alone on this autism journey. Her stories and photos are shared with permission from her incredibly AWEsome son, Ryan, who also wants people to believe that even though he is “different,” he is not ever “less.”

To read more from Kate, follow her on Facebook or visit The AWEnesty of Autism website today.

I’m Not Naughty, I’m Autistic

In an effort to spread more understanding about autism, The National Autistic Society made this short, 85-second video of an outing at a shopping mall from the viewpoint of a boy with autism. In it, we get to experience the overwhelming sensory chaos that assaults him during what is, for most people, an enjoyable trip out.

“For autistic people, the world can be a really terrifying place. And for their families, the looks and stares make it a really lonely one too,” said Mark Lever, CEO of the National Autistic Society.

“We wanted people to see the looks and stares that Alexander and his mom get on a shopping trip, and then perhaps ask themselves have they done that before in that particular situation. Maybe after having seen the film they might react differently in the future and, in doing so, they really will have made a world of difference.”

Watch for yourself.

Everyone Has to Have a Voice

Apple’s recent videos profiling Dillan, a non-verbal teenager with autism, are just beautiful. Too often people assume that those who don’t talk also don’t think, even though speech and mind function are rarely tied to one another. As most of us know, and the rest of the world needs to be shown, just because somebody can’t communicate doesn’t mean they don’t feel or love. And Dillan proves this when he receives the computer that finally helps him open his world’s locked door.

In the first video, he explains how he experiences the world in a unique way–with his senses heightened and more intense than those of most other people—and feels emotions from those he loves.

The ability to finally have a voice gives him more control, by helping him hold onto his thoughts. It means he can finally say what he thinks, and let the people who love him know that he loves them too. Having a voice means no more isolation.

In the second video, Dillan’s mom and his therapist/communication partner discuss how the biggest challenge used to be not knowing what Dillan was thinking or feeling. We all know the value that our society puts on eye contact, with the preconceived notion that those who don’t look you in the eye when you speak aren’t listening and/or understanding you. This belief is ingrained in us since we’re young, and is one of our cultural norms that we need to change.

So many assumptions that we know aren’t true need to be shown as the falsehoods they are. Non-verbal does not mean non-intelligent. As Dillan’s mom puts so succinctly, “Not being able to speak isn’t the same as not having something to say.”

As for Dillan, he can finally show people the person he truly is inside, and not just the person they might see and not understand. Best explained by Dillan, himself, “People need a voice, not only so they’re heard, but so they’re understood and known.”