We Don’t Need an Autism 'Cure,' but Compassion and Tolerance Would Be Great

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This week I got a text message from someone I know alerting me to watch the news because apparently, they’ve found a cure for autism.

This made me angry. And here’s why:

Firstly, it’s insulting to tell someone who is living with autistic family members they love and adore and who are made who they are in their essence by being autistic, that they need curing. Secondly, there is no proven cure for autism; it is a permanent neurological condition.

I’m not saying autism doesn’t have its challenges. It can be hard on everyone. And it is, regularly. Every single day. But being autistic also gives each individual a unique ability to see the world in a way no one else does.

And that makes it incredibly beautiful.

If my husband wasn’t autistic, he wouldn’t be the man I fell in love with. If my 4-year-old wasn’t autistic, she might not ask me, full of awe and wonder, to “look at the magical way the leaves float off the tree” on windy days. If my eldest daughter wasn’t autistic she wouldn’t be the incredibly intuitive person I know and love her to be and she wouldn’t be twice exceptional.

So no, my family doesn’t need “curing.” Thanks. 

Perhaps it’s others who need a cure, but is there even a cure for ignorance? I’m not sure there is.

Autistic people don’t need to be “managed.” Autistic people need the society they live in to be compassionate, understanding and willing to work at things from a different angle. Society needs to be more embracing of neurodiversity and learn to see autistic people as strengths, not flaws.

They aren’t broken. But your perception totally is.

Image via Thinkstock.

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The Internet Banded Together to Send a Young Girl With Autism Her Favorite Shirt

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Deborah Grimshaw Skouson has spent years scouring the internet with the hopes of finding more of her daughter Cami’s favorite shirt. Cami, who’s on the autism spectrum, is attached to her favorite pink floral shirt, which Grimshaw Skouson bought from Target five years ago.

People with autism often find it difficult to find clothes that work with their sensory sensitivities. They can also become fixated with certain items – like Cami is with her pink floral shirt – making it hard to move on when the item goes missing or is ruined.

Time, like Cami’s favorite shirt, was running thin so Grimshaw Skouson did what any social media savvy parent would do: she took to Facebook to see if anyone else had Cami’s favorite shirt.

Okay friends and family, I need your help! As most of you know, my daughter Cami has autism. For the past 4-5 years, she has been fixated on THIS shirt. She got her first one in kindergarten 5 years ago, and we have found 4 more since then, mostly on eBay. Her current one is almost unwearable, and eBay has gone dry. This shirt is a CIRCO brand from TARGET. They were sold in 2011-2012. This is where you come in. We need another “pink flower shirt”, so will you please share this post or even just the photo? We will pay for the shirt and the shipping if someone would be kind enough to sell it to us. It has to be this exact shirt! We’ve tried similar shirts, and they don’t cut it with Cami! Thank you so much!! (any size is great!)

Within a week, Grimshaw Skouson’s post had been shared more than 26,000 times – over 3,000 times on her post and another 23,000 on news anchor Frank Somerville’s page. Since then, Cami has received five shirts, and at least 73 more are on their way. Some commenters have offered to turn Cami’s old shirts into stuffed animals, pillows and quilts so she can treasure them even after she outgrows them. Other parents have commented relating to Grimshaw Skouson, saying they buy their children’s favorite clothing in bulk too.

H/T POPSUGAR

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JC Penney Hosts Back-to-School Shopping Event for Shoppers With Autism

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Bright lights, loud music, and dozens of families combing through the aisles to try and find the best deals can make back-to-school shopping a miserable experience for families whose children have special needs. Knowing how stressful back-to-school shopping can be for these families, a JC Penney store in Dallas created a special shopping event for children with sensory sensitivities.

On Sunday, the Timber Creek Crossing store opened three hours early to hold a judgment-free shopping experience. The two-hour shopping event was designed to accomodate the needs of those with autism spectrum disorder.

“We’re in about 50 percent lighting,” general manager Jay Tollett told CW33. “Typically the store would be bright, you’d have a lot of music going on. That’s the other thing, we have the music turned off this morning so it’s nice and quiet and calm and a little cooler than we normally have it in here.”

To better understand the needs of those on the spectrum, the store worked with the Dallas Independent School District, according to the Dallas Morning News. Store employees working that morning also received “autism-friendly” customer service training.

While the shopping event is currently a one-time experience, Tollett told the Dallas Morning News he hopes to create more events like this, as well as have it expand to other JC Penney stores.

Update: A spokesperson for JC Penney confirmed the company is looking into expanding the event to more stores. 

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What My Local Library Means to Me as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

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It had only been two years since I was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, and I had just graduated high school. I tried college, but it didn’t really work out for me right away. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know what I could do with my life. So I started volunteering at my local library.

I had been a member of this library since I was about 2 years old when my mom first brought me for story time. So everyone at the library knew me pretty well, even though I didn’t really know them. I had never taken the time to get to know them. But when I started volunteering, things changed for me.

A whole world opened up for me. I had to learn how to take public transportation in order to get myself there. Then, when I finally got a car, I learned how to drive myself there. I was great at finding the books to pull from the shelves that people would place holds on. And then it went a bit further.

The people who worked there became my friends.

I learned how to be humble on my good days that I found all of the books that were requested and how to be OK with myself on the days that I couldn’t get them all. I also found books that I was interested in. Eventually, I even made them a picture communication book for nonverbal patrons! Above all, I learned I could do something with my life.

I could help others.

And although I now have a job and don’t have time to volunteer nearly as often as I used to, I still try to find the time to go in and visit my friends. And they are still more than happy to help. This is why I want to thank them.

Thank you to my friends at the West Chester Public Library. Thank you for providing me with a safe place to learn new skills. Thank you for understanding my challenges and encouraging me to overcome them. Thank you for supporting my goals and for helping me to achieve them.

Most importantly, thank you for going above and beyond your librarian duties.

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My Great American Autism Success Story

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My name is Louis Scarantino. I was born in the ’90s and diagnosed with autism at 2 and a half years old. I couldn’t speak until I was 5 and had an abnormal childhood. When I started school, my mom, along with a counseling center I went to for support, did many things to help me get to where I am today.

My high school life was tough. I was bullied by a special education teacher who didn’t understand me, as well as by a school principal. I got my first job in high school at a Burger King, winning Employee of the Month three times. Once, I attended an Elton John concert and unexpectedly landed front-row seats and an autograph. Those were my only great memories of high school.

I attended a community college 40 minutes away from home, commuting by car five days a week to better myself. I got all A’s and Bs, even though I was hard on myself most of the time and always wanted to quit. I finished in four years, got an award in my major of Office Information Technology, and graduated cum laude.

I became a big fan of country and pop singer Shania Twain through a college girlfriend. I dreamed of meeting Twain after college, so I attended a show of hers in Las Vegas in 2013, knowing some lucky fans were going to be brought on stage. During the show, she came into the audience to hug fans and shake hands while singing “Any Man of Mine,” and I got a hug. Later in the show, she called some fans to the stage. I went down from the 11th row and told Twain I was from Pennsylvania. She brought me up by saying, “Come on up here, Pennsylvania.”

I told the audience I had autism. Twain was shocked, but told me I was fine and gave me another hug. She took my hand and invited me to sit next to her on stage! She asked me my name before she sang “Today is Your Day.”

That moment made me more passionate about life. I now feel successful working as a Photo Tech at a DMV location. In that capacity, I’ve received three different honors, including a state award I attended a dinner for.

I hope to do many more great things on the autism spectrum and hopefully get a film made about my life. Anything is possible for anyone who has autism if you follow your dreams.

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'The Vault' Is a New Hotel Designed to Accommodate and Hire People With Autism

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Vacations are great, but traveling can be especially stressful for people with sensory sensitivities who require certain accommodations to truly enjoy their holiday. Enter The Vault, a new hotel in Gateshead, U.K., that understands the needs of the autism community and is prepared to make accommodations in a facility for and staffed by people with autism spectrum disorder.

The Vault, owned and operated by the St. Camillus Care Group, is one of the first hotels of its kind. In the United States, there are “autism-friendly” hotels and hotels committed to hiring people on the spectrum, but there are no establishments designed specifically for hiring or housing people with autism.

“The concept has been over a year in the making and stems from a shared vested interest in this field,” Darren Wilson, The Vault’s director of housing, health and care told The Mighty. Wilson, who has 14 years of experience working in adult social care and housing, works with The Vault’s managing director, John Heron – who has successfully run several businesses despite his own learning disabilities – to make the Group’s dream a reality.

“My driving passion is to offer people with autism and learning disabilities something different, but most importantly meaningful, that pushes the boundaries that have been placed around them by mainstream services,” Wilson said. “We are immensely proud of the trainees we have worked with to date and their dedication and commitment validates our overall plan for the business.”

The cornerstone of The Vault’s mission is to hire people on the spectrum as well as others with learning disabilities. “Our overall goal is to have potential employees assessed so that we are able to appropriately meet their employability needs,” Wilson said. These paid positions will focus on the different hospitality services offered by the hotel including computer literacy, art, design and those skills needed to work in a restaurant.

Trainees at The Vault

Each employee receives comprehensive training and support. “[Training is] important to us because we believe that people with autism can become outstanding employees,” Wilson said. “We want to build a service that showcases the outstanding but often hidden talent people with autism and learning difficulties possess.” Wilson hopes to train up to 28 employees through the program each year.

Rooms at The Vault are currently being revamped to accommodate the needs of those on the spectrum. While rooms are not available yet, Wilson anticipates guests will be able to stay at the hotel starting early this fall. In the meantime, The Vault is open to visitors who wish to eat at the establishment’s American-themed diner or visit their entertainment facilities – both of which make accommodations for people with special needs.

 

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