To the Disney Store Employees Who Really 'See' My Son With Autism

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Every few months my son Griffin, who is on the autism spectrum, has an appointment downtown. From the very beginning we would make a day of it, going to the local playground and stopping by the Disney Store nearby. On our first visit to the store we met Lena, a cast member with whom we instantly connected. She took her time talking to Griffin and really seemed to get him. Lena made an impression on both of us, and we think she’s the best! I always text Lena to let her know when Griffin’s next appointment is, so we can make a point to see each other if possible. We’ve been friends now for about a year, and seeing her always makes our day.

Recently, Griffin had another appointment downtown. He was having a hard time on our way to the appointment, and I wasn’t sure if things would get better. But we stuck to our plans and made our usual visit to the Disney Store. As soon as we walked into the store we were greeted by Lena and her beautiful smile.

As I was talking to Lena, Griffin asked if he could go look at the “Frozen” toys. There is a book that he likes to read every time we are there.  I caught him out of the corner of my eye asking one of the cast members for help when he couldn’t find the book. The fact that he was being independent and asking for help alone was pretty cool, but then when I got to him I was really blown away.

Griffin and Jess reading
Griffin and Jess reading.

Jess, the woman who was helping Griffin, was on the floor reading to him. She had helped him find the book he was looking for, and then offered to read to him while he read silently from the same book. Jess was so sweet and spent a good amount of time with him. With her permission, I captured the moment and wanted to share it. I told her that in my opinion, we need to see and share more moments like these.

Moments where a person really sees Griffin — not his age or how he “should be acting, but they really see him and meet him where he’s at — show us what is possible for him and for us as a family. It shows us that acceptance, non-judgment and kindness are possible. Griffin is a beautiful boy who is trying to navigate the world, and I’m so grateful that moments like these show him (and us) that he will be just fine.

My family has been very fortunate to have moments like this to cherish and share. Thank you Lena, Jess and the Disney Store for making our day better and brighter!

A version of this post originally appeared on What Will This Day Bring?

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected act of kindness, big or small, that you’ve experienced or witnessed in an everyday place. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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To the Children on the Autism Spectrum I Work With Every Day

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As a speech language pathologist, I have the privilege to work with young children on the autism spectrum every day. Recently, I was asked by a colleague to write something reflecting my experience with these amazing little ones, and as April is Autism Awareness Month, I felt moved to share it beyond the walls of our school.

I see you.

I see that you came to school today.

I see your favorite striped shirt and your not-so-favorite lace-up sneakers.

I see that you showed a friend your brand new backpack.

I see you found your favorite swing on the far side on the playground.​

I see you’re feeling like you’d rather stay outside.

I see you playing happily with the fastest engine from your train set.

I see you’d prefer I not play with you right now.

I see that you’re excited to listen to your favorite song.

I see that today, you don’t feel like talking in a “big” voice.

I see a smile a mile-wide, while you cruise down the slide.

I see that today, you don’t want to color with crayons.

I see you laughing hard when we do a silly dance.

I see that you don’t feel like using your words today.

I see a stack of blocks so tall you had to reach way up on your tiptoes to finish it.

I see you feeling like going to the gym is going to be too much for you right now.

I see a child who is perfectly and uniquely made, who will struggle and fall short and succeed and excel.

I see a child who is just right.

I see You.
The Mighty is asking the following: How would you describe your disability, disease or mental illness to a child? If you’ve done this before, tell us about that moment and the child’s reaction. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.
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PBS Kids Show ‘Dinosaur Train’ Puts Spotlight on Autism Acceptance

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The hit PBS Kids show “Dinosaur Train,” produced by The Jim Henson Company, is airing back-to-back episodes on April 6 and 7 to promote autism awareness, according to the network.

PBS teamed up with The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help families learn more about autism and to familiarize them with the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” initiative.

The episodes, titled “Junior Conductor’s Academy: Part One” and “Junior Conductor’s Academy: Part Two,” will introduce a new dinosaur, Dennis Deinocheirus. Dennis is very knowledgable about dinosaurs, but he has trouble making friends. Despite his difficulties socializing, Dennis finds common ground with Buddy and the other characters on the program.

“Like all dinosaurs, their new friend Dennis has his own dinosaur features,” according to a post on the show’s website. “And, like all of us, he has strengths in some areas and challenges in others.”

PBS stations across the country will also be hosting screenings and events for the episodes.

The episodes air on Wednesday, April 6 and Thursday, April 7, at 11:30 a.m in each timezone. Share your thoughts about the show on social media by using the #MeetDennis hashtag.

Dinosaur Train and Arthur celebrate #NationalAutismAwarenessMonth with all new episodes April 5 & 6 on PBSKids! Check your local listings for more: http://to.pbs.org/23bfHnx

Posted by Dinosaur Train on Monday, April 4, 2016

h/t GPB

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Why I Can’t Support Autism Awareness Month as an Autistic Person

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Shocking, I know. For many families with autistic children, or autistic people ourselves, this time of year is filled with families being excited for Autism Awareness Day/Month. Which is great. Good for them. If it makes more people hear about autism then I will agree that it is not a bad thing. But that does not mean I support it. When we say that we need Autism Awareness Month, we say we need a month to talk about autism. We say that our world is so incapable of understanding us that we need an entire month to teach them.

Think about it like this. Autism is classified as a developmental disorder. It causes difficulty in social communication, stimming behavior, etc. I am not even going to pretend that autism is “easy,” because it’s not easy. However, autism is not life-threatening. Look at something like Hunter’s syndrome, which causes a long list of life-threatening side effects and has a life expectancy of between 10 and 20 years. However, Hunter’s syndrome does not even have one day for recognizing and learning about it. It, along with many other diseases, get lumped into Rare Disease Day. And while that day is a great idea, it also severely limits the chances for awareness on individual rare diseases.

Let me just press this: I am not saying that we do not need a day for autism awareness. Of course we do. And I fully support it. However, what I cannot in good conscience support is an entire month for autism awareness. I can’t because I refuse to say that my struggles and my fight are greater than other people’s.

Finally, just let me say this. I support autistic people. I support our right to be allowed to live our lives, I support our ability to function in this world. But I also support and wholeheartedly agree with the people who say that autism is not something that needs to be cured or be fixed. Because I agree with them. And that is the other reason I don’t approve of this month, because it’s a month that a lot of people dedicate solely to raising money for research for a “cure” for autism. I don’t think we need a cure. I think we need acceptance. I think we need to look at each other and stop saying we are different. We need to stop and look at each other and say, “We are one. We are in this together. We will do this together.” We don’t need to change or bend. You don’t need to fix us, because we do not want to be fixed. We don’t need it. And I know I only speak for myself, but I wish everyone would stop trying to get us to be someone who we aren’t, and start letting us learn how to accept ourselves. Teach us who we are. Teach us to accept it. Please. Don’t force us to learn it for ourselves.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one commonly held opinion within the community surrounding your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) that doesn’t resonate with you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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Court Takes Action Against Rec Center That Banned Autistic Boy From Locker Room

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After one mother’s 5-year-old son on the autism spectrum was banned from the women’s locker room at the Adams Butzel Recreation Center in Detroit, she sought help from the U.S. Attorneys office.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade confirmed to the Detroit Free Press on Monday that the rec center has now modified its rules, which prohibited children older than 18 months from using locker rooms designated for the opposite sex.

The mother, whose name was not mentioned in the statement, asked to bring her son into the women’s locker room because he needed help with his swimsuit. But the recreation center denied her request, telling her she either needed to bring a male relative to assist the child, allow a male staff member to help the child in the men’s locker room, or visit another club.

The woman declined these options because she wanted to help her son at the recreation center closest to her home, reported local news site ClickOnDetroit.com, and she then filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorneys office.

“Parents of children with disabilities work hard to make sure that their children have the same opportunities for recreation as children without disabilities,” McQuade said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. “Our office is committed to supporting these families by working with them to bring down barriers that may be in their children’s way.”

McQuade added that the city agreed to implement a new policy “requiring reasonable modifications to the center’s locker room policies for children with disabilities.” Children accompanied by an adult member of the opposite sex will now be allowed to change in a curtained section of the locker room designated for members of the adult’s sex, and children accompanied by an adult will also be allowed to use the lifeguards’ locker room.

Staff at the Adams Butzel Recreation Center will receive training on the new policy and their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in public accommodation, employment and transportation, among other areas.

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Virtual Google Tour Helps Autistic Kids Check Out Hospital Before They Visit

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The Birmingham Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, England, recently teamed up with Google and Autism West Midlands to create an extensive virtual tour for patients with autism and their families. It’s just like Google street view — but with a glimpse inside every door and room of the hospital.

“We know that children with autism really struggle when they come to visit us,” the hospital wrote on its Facebook page. “They get anxious and upset about unfamiliar places and this can often be very hard for the parents too.”

A view from the Birmingham Children's Hospital, which is part of an extensive virtual tour developed by Google.
Image courtesy of Google

You can drag your mouse across the screen to explore spaces, or you can use the arrow keys to digitally navigate the hospital. The hospital also provides links to 19 of its common areas if users want to search that way as well.

In addition to providing families with a tool to “familiarize themselves” with the “hospital before their visit,” the facility also has a “Sensory Garden” where patients of all abilities and needs can play and relax.

A view from the Birmingham Children's Hospital, which is part of an extensive virtual tour developed by Google.
Image courtesy of Google

To check out the virtual tour, visit the The Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s website here.

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