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  • Friday, February 15, 2019 9:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Love is such an important experience that even the pain of losing someone you love is better than not having loved that person.”  Bookbrowse.com interprets these words to mean that “the pain of loss does not outweigh the pleasure of love.” I have experienced Tennyson’s words in the ballroom dancing I have done since 2011. Ballroom dancing has helped me take risks in developing appropriate friendships with women and to value and solace in platonic love when romantic love is not available.  Platonic love lessens the sting of not having romantic love. I also realize that I don’t need romantic love to be fully self-actualized.

    I don’t mean to suggest that ballroom dancing is the answer for anyone who experiences social awkwardness.  I am sure there are activities that are just as effective that are not anything like ballroom dancing. I do know that for me, finding my best social self cannot be done in isolation.  I need other people and I would encourage anyone who struggles with social awkwardness to find a way to connect with others that works best for them.

    I read somewhere that even when men with autism pursue women romantically in an appropriate manner, they often fail to secure that kind of relationship. That experience was very frustrating for me.  It still is, but the frustration became much less intense once I began ballroom dancing. I undervalued friendships with the opposite sex. I made the mistake of having an all-or-nothing attitude toward friendships with women.  I believed it was not fulfilling enough to just be friends with women. I do feel loneliness still, not being in a romantic relationship. But having emotional intimacy with many women really does help with the loneliness. I feel confident that I can continue to add to my happiness even if I am forever single.  I believe I will always work through the periods of loneliness I experience, especially as I continue to grow in my relationship with myself.

    From my youth I recall believing that since I was smart enough, handsome enough, sensitive enough, etc., that I was entitled to a romantic partner.  I have since learned that love does not work that way. Love is not a logical, rational proposition you can negotiate. Either it happens or it doesn’t. A healthy relationship is not something that can be manipulated.  I am grateful I am not in a romantic relationship just for its own sake, because then it wouldn’t really be romantic.

    For me, the key has been to be comfortable with myself while I pursue platonic and romantic love.  I tried a dating service once and I learned, for a high price, how to spend dinner with a woman appropriately.  But none of those introductions led to a romance, or even a friendship. I realized then that I did not want to date.  I just wanted to spend time with women so that I could learn how to be around them appropriately. That is when I decided to try ballroom dancing.

    In 2011, I started ballroom dancing with the goal of meeting a romantic partner.  Within a month, I realized it is better for me just to have fun, become a better dancer, and make new friends. For me, ballroom dancing is a series of three-minute introductions, a platonic answer to speed dating.  it is an opportunity to meet several women in one night.

    In a future blog, which I will probably call, “The Second Lift,” I plan to write about my experience in preparing for and successfully executing a showcase performance with my instructor in the winter of 2018.  But for this blog, I will share of how I learned to ask a lady to dance, what to do while I am dancing with her, and how to end a dance. I hope it will inspire hope in those who are socially awkward that these skills can be learned. The professional instructor told me that if I follow her advice in these areas, I will be able to persuade many ladies to dance with me.  She was right.

    I mentioned earlier that doing things “right” doesn’t guarantee romance. But I also learned that if I do things appropriately, the pride in myself overrides any result from my efforts. This is the essence of Tennyson’s teaching: it is not whether you win or lose the game of love.  It is how well you play. Asking a lady to dance is not difficult, but there are quite a few don'ts to avoid.  Don’t interrupt her if she is in the middle of a conversation. Wait for her to finish her conversation.  Before I might have just asked, “Wanna dance? “to someone I have never met. My instructor taught me it is more effective to introduce myself first then offer my hand in invitation.  Remember to smile. The most difficult part is when a lady says no, but it often isn’t personal, and it doesn’t mean you cannot ask again. If I have another conversation later with a lady who declined my invitation, I might ask if she is open to another invitation at some point in the future.

    Knowing what to do while I am dancing with a lady is the most difficult part of the dance for me.  I do generally engage in appropriate small talk like the weather, where they are from and what brought them to the studio.  Inevitably, the most interesting and eclectic comments can still emerge from me at this point. The first time I dance with someone I often tell them that I am on the autistic spectrum.  That often helps. My most regular dance partners tend to be intrigued or even amused with my quirks. Since I have learned to laugh at myself, we just laugh together.

    If I can’t think of anything to say, I can always just work on the dancing with my partner. Many of the women are really good dancers. One of my friends practiced the basics of samba with me many Saturday nights.  The practice helped me perform well in the showcase. Other times, I dance with a new dancer, and I teach her the basic steps. In any event, I do generally engage in appropriate small talk like the weather, where they are from and what brought them to the studio.

    Nothing can ruin a positive dance experience more than just abandoning the lady in the middle of the dance floor at the end of the song.  It is always great manners to escort her off the floor. A good rule of thumb is to take her where you found her. I often ask her where she wants to go.  

    I enjoy working on dancing as a team with the opposite sex.  Ballroom dancing makes it easier for me to appreciate and understand women in all areas of my life.  At work, all of my supervisors are women. I have a good relationship with all of them. I used to struggle in almost every relationship I have, both men and women, but ballroom dancing has really helped me improve socially.  Even my toughest critics in therapy commended my decision to ballroom dance.

    The physical contact in ballroom dancing is nurturing, but it is neither romantic nor sexual.  It is a pleasant connection that takes the sting out of being alone. My greatest satisfaction with ballroom dancing is knowing that I am putting myself out there just in case a romantic opportunity does arise.  But if it does, it would probably be in a context other than ballroom dancing. The ladies I see each Saturday are like sisters, rather than potential romantic partners.

    Even if it doesn’t happen for me, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I gave love my best effort.  This is what Tennyson’s words mean for me. If I spent my life on the sidelines without making an honest effort, I know I would regret it. Knowing that I did my best makes me feel good about me, and the relationship I have with myself is the one that is most important. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if I don’t find a romantic partner. I have already loved platonically and won.




  • Thursday, February 07, 2019 10:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I entered kindergarten in Atlanta, GA. 47 years ago.  I have a powerful long-term memory but accessing experiences that reflect autistic characteristics in me is difficult.  I can say, however, that making my first friend was not done in a traditional way.

    I was invited over to play by classmates, but those invitations rarely led to a second invitation.  I was still trying to find a sport I in which could excel. I was lousy at both football and baseball, and I could not maintain a social conversation for more than a few seconds.  I had no clue why. It simply was not on my parents’ radar to screen me for autism, because I was developing language, could maintain eye contact, and I had interest in connecting with others, but did not know how.  I was maintaining excellent grades in school, and I was interacting with other children, and so I appeared normal.

    But I was quite lonely, and I spent much of my childhood entertaining myself.  I remember having a fascination with match box cars, and I spend hours lining them up all over the house.  I can recall making nonsensical sounds that entertained me because it confused others. It was a strange sort of social revenge.  Since I was confused by the neurotypical behavior around me, I responded to it by engaging in my own made-up vocabulary of sounds just to confuse my peers.  I cannot recall any from early childhood, but I can recall many from middle school. For example, I was taking Spanish in 6th grade, and I really struggled to learn from this strange teacher who tried in vain to convey stories about a sweater she purchased two years earlier in Mexico.

    Then, one day in a boring session of conjugating Spanish verbs, I exclaimed,”Beeeeeeeeeeee!!!”  

    Several classmates looked at me, but not all of them were disgusted.  A few of them were quite delighted. It was my unique way of bonding with my peers.  I recall one other guy in class, who ended up being a key part of a formidable alliance as a striker on a  YMCA soccer team, was absolutely thrilled with it, because it infuriated our teacher.

    It became a game with Sean and me.  Who could say, “Beeeeeeee!” the loudest without getting caught?  I had a clear advantage. I was in the back two rows from the teacher.  Sean was right in front of Ms. Cantrell. “beee,” he would say softly. While Ms. Cantrell was hitting him on the head with a pencil, I decided to up the ante.


    In the loudest voice imaginable, I bellowed, “W!!!!!!!!!”  I figured if we were to scream letters of the alphabet, we might as well work our way all the way through it.  Besides, “w” was more irritating to listen to than “b,” because it was three syllables long, rather than just one.

    The class erupted with laugher.  Ms. Cantrell made me sit right next to her and threated to kiss me if I wasn’t quiet.  That kept me subdued for a while. But one look at Sean, and I was off again….

    “Beeeee!!!!!!!!”  I was crawling on my hands and knees to avoid Ms. Cantrell’s lips.

    The art and science of making ridiculous noises to win friends began with my first friend, Mike.  Our earliest encounters were the opposite of how someone might make a friend. Since I had no idea how to engage in small talk, but wanted someone to climb the jungle gym with, I ran up to Mike, slapped him on the back, and shouted, “How are ya?!  Let’s go climb the jungle gym!!”

    Mike was always a very patient man.  He writhed in pain every time I slapped him, but it took him weeks to finally ask me to quit. Perhaps the best decision I made was to respect his request.  I asked him recently why he tolerated me. His response was that I was persistent, and that he had no innate fear of unusual behavior, which seemed to be what prevented many others from approaching me.  Ultimately, he was entertained by my antics and enjoyed the game of confusing others around us.

     We soon perfected the nonsense sound ritual as a team.  We would run up to the toughest kids on the playground and scream one of those nonsensical sounds.  We delighted in running to the top of the jungle gym we knew they could not climb. Over and over, the tough kids tried to climb the jungle gym like rabid dogs trying to get to two cats in a tree.  But it was no use. By the time it was time to go in, we smiled as we walked in the safety of our class away from the brutes in the other lines who wanted revenge.

    That same year, Mike introduced me to organized soccer, which I had discovered about a year before was my sport.  We would play on many teams for years after that, finding other kids who would participate in the strange noises we made just for our amusement, or would at least tolerate it.  Along the way, I learned just enough soccer and social skills to make enough friends to have a relatively happy childhood.



  • Wednesday, January 23, 2019 8:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "Call your mother. Tell her you love her. Remember, you're the only person who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside." ~Rachel Wolchin

    Recently, I was on the phone with my mom.  I was in the middle of telling her something I thought was important at the time, and she stopped me to let me know she saw a cardinal and a squirrel on the ground near the bird feeder.  

    I love phone calls with my mom. I know there are always going to be a few conversation detours. I hear about her latest trip to the store, if there were any good deals, how friends are doing, and what they're up to. She'll tell me which chores she's gotten done, and how much more there still is to do. During flower season, she keeps me updated on what's been planted, repotted, and how much rain is in the rain gauge.

    I enjoy our Friday morning visits over a cup of coffee, while Morgan chimes in on almost every sentence.  We laugh, shrug, and shake our heads, rarely completing a thought.  We end our visits with a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and a promise to call again soon.

    img_4197

    We celebrate my mom's 78th birthday this year, and I'm realizing just how important these conversations are, whether they're about something I need to tell her, or just about a cardinal and a squirrel.  I love you Mom.  I'm blessed to have you here.  Happy Birthday!

     



  • Tuesday, January 15, 2019 8:20 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Before I get into the difficult time I had during my seventh grade year in middle school, I would like to point out that my childhood is filled with pleasant memories.  I was reasonably athletic, and so my peers admired the contributions I made as a basketball and soccer player as a kid even if they did not always understand my behavior. Similarly, my classmates seemed to overlook my social awkwardness when we had group projects, because they seemed to realize I could help them earn a good grade.  Finally, like most on the spectrum, I had few friends, but I had just enough. In this case, I needed just one.

    I think the most frustrating aspect of my life was not understanding why my classmates often rejected me.  Neither they nor I knew I was on the autistic spectrum. I did know I was hearing impaired, but I compensated for that by sitting near the front in all my classes and asking a lot of questions.  Perhaps that is what annoyed some of my classmates. “David is so smart, but he asks so many stupid questions. Why is that?” My peers did not know I was hearing impaired. I was ashamed of it and did not tell anyone.  That was not a socially smart decision. I was not responding to much of what was being said. I am sure my classmates thought I was rude, dumb or both. But I was not really aware this was going on, just that my peers were rejecting me and did not understand why.

    Anyway, there were also times when I could hear fine what was said, but I could not follow the content and tone of the conversation as quickly as they could.  I laughed inappropriately when nothing funny was being said. I still do that, but I apologize when I do, and I understand why I am doing it. So, I am able to regain respect today.  Back then, I had no clue that my behavior was very irritating. My buddy Mike, however, weathered it all, because I think he felt a little sorry for me, but also because he was quick to see my assets.  He played defense and set up many goals I scored when we played soccer together.

    I think my classmates grew tired of trying to understand me.  So, they began to bully me. My theory is middle school children don’t have the insight to grasp the subtle behavior patterns of their peers that tick them off.  So they pick come unusual characteristic that cannot be changed, and they make fun of that. In my case, that seemed to be what happened.

    My classmates made fun of my hair color and unkempt way I styled it.  I am platinum blond. It is darker today, but back then, it was practically white. So, my nickname was, “Mophead.”  I heard it everywhere: changing classes in the hall, during lunch and in class. Oftentimes, groups of them would chant, “Mophead” as I walked by.  Riding the bus home was particularly rough. Around school, I could walk away from the taunting. On the bus, I was stuck. I had to listen to it for an hour and a half, because I was the last stop on the bus route.  Nobody stopped it. I was practically suicidal. But I lived through it.

    The turning point was the field day we had on our playground.  There was much going on: a snack bar and all kinds of outdoor games.  I was wandering around when suddenly two of the regular bullies walked toward me.  I walked in the other direction, but it was no good. Bullies started to come at me from that direction as well.  Before I knew it, I was completed surrounded by the tormentors. I had nowhere to go. I looked for help, but none came.  I figured I was about to beaten to a pulp. I was terrified.

    Then, something happened.

    A small group of tough kids stepped in the middle with me.  These were less than average students from the poor neighborhoods.  One of them remembered my helping him with classwork back in elementary school.  The bullies were stymied. My new allies asked me to point out the primary perpetrator.  I identified the ring leader. His arrogance was quickly replaced by fear. I left the scene in tears with sadness and relief.  I felt sadness because I never felt so alone. I felt relief because I realized that not only did I have enough influence to persuade at least a few to help me, the abuse stopped when I asked for help.

    Enter my buddy Mike.  Over the summer, I explained the situation to him.  He was furious. Mike lived in a different part of town from me.  So, we didn’t ride the same bus. So during the first week of 8th grade, we decided we would have him spend the night with me on a Friday night so he could ride the bus home with me.  And that’s all it took.

    We sat down with the ring leader and pointed out every instance that he participated in the abuse.  When we were done, I asked his primary co-conspirator if any of what we said was untrue. He said nothing.  Another bus mate tried to get me and Mike to stop making our case. I quickly told her it had nothing to do with her, and she had no business butting in.  She became silent. And when it was time for the ringleader to get off at his stop, Mike and I promised him that Mike would be riding home with me often.

    Mike’s intervention probably saved my life.  I did not want to return to these horrors. Together, we made sure the bullying stopped and stay stopped.  I remember that next school year, our soccer team reached the state playoffs and defeated the team on which one of our rivals played.  Mike and I had a ritual of writing the score of our soccer game on the board of algebra class. I realized as we wrote the score of that city playoff game, I had earned more than just one victory.  They teach in schools today that the bystander is key to stopping the bullying that happens in school. Truer words have never been printed. Parents can’t stop bullying. Teachers and administrators can’t stop it.  You need bystanders like Mike.



  • Wednesday, January 09, 2019 8:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    In 1994, I decided to coach youth soccer.  I had just completed my M.Ed, Peabody College at Vanderbilt.  I had played youth soccer for the Y.M.C.A. in Atlanta from age 8 until age 16, had been to soccer camp at Clemson University and had actually earned a letter from my high school. So, I felt qualified to teach youth what I knew.  I was qualified, but I learned I was quite ready.

    The first bunch of guys I had were much smarter than me.  One constantly corrected me on my knowledge of the rules. When my directions were not followed, I showed my frustration by raising my voice and arguing with a group of 12 year old Ivy leaguers about who was in charge.  To say I lost control of the team that had much promise is inaccurate. I never had control to begin with. For whatever reason, I abandoned the concept of keeping the children engaged, and I completely ignored the parents, except to say, “This is where the practice will be.  Pick them up at 6:00 P.M.”

    I did not know at the time that I was on the spectrum, but I was aware of being socially awkward. I tried to circumvent this weakness by not involving the parents in any of the team decisions.  The youth had named the team a code word that turned out to be completely inappropriate. I received phone calls about that. Several players wanted to be goal keeper, and so I followed a parents’ suggestion to have the players try out.  This was disastrous. It was a recreational team, and I turned it into a MLS tryout, leaving one of the losers of the competition in tears. Finally, I was running practices all by myself, making kids wait in a long line to take their turn at the drill.  Inevitably, a fist fight among two rivals erupted, leading to several calls to my supervisor who said I had to go.

    But then this same supervisor talked to the parents, and quickly realized that I was put in very difficult circumstances, and my efforts, while unsuccessful, deserved rewarding.  So, he let me work as a referee. The next season, I became certified. Soon, I was officiating every under 6 game for that Y.M.C.A. I worked to show the same gentle kindness to the soccer tots bestowed upon me.  My supervisor took notice, and he decided to give me another coaching opportunity: this time to 5 year olds.

    In the season that ensued, in 1996 I worked to correct the mistakes I made two seasons before.  Though I ran it imperfectly (I had a disagreement about when to have practices with the parents), I began by having a team meeting with the parents.  I had a volunteer to bring Gatorade, one to bring snacks and one to help me coach the games. I made sure at least two parents helped me at practice. Now, I was running three different drills at once.  All kids had a ball with them at all times. They were not bored waiting for their turn. I asked the parents for any suggestions they had for improving our sessions. They rarely had any. Since the children were 5 and not 12, my authority was not questioned.  To them, I was truly a soccer god to be revered. Finally, I taught every player every position on the field and rotated them regularly so they learned all the points of the game.

    This recipe for success would last until 2012.  I have about 50 appreciation plaques decorating my bedroom walls.  By the time I gave up coaching to focus on disability advocacy, I had coached three different teams to an undefeated season, and I was named coach of the year at two different Y.M.C.A.’s.  A key part of all of this success was the patience shown to me by my two supervisors. Neither knew I had autism, because I didn’t know it.  But they consistently guaranteed my success by allowing me to call them as much as I needed.  I can remember times I called and asked the same question three different ways in the same day.  But my supervisor never seemed to mind. He could see my professional growth and the impact I was having on youth sports.  I think another big reason for my success was that I always saw myself in the kids I coached. I was both the misfit kid that had few friends and I was often one of the strongest players on many of my teams in my youth.  I made it clear that all the kids on all my teams were special. I helped them all to feel like winners, regardless of the game’s outcome. All of them got a personalized trophy at the end of the season. They were all assured of their importance of their success to the team.  My youth coaching days marked the foundation of my growing confidence in the working world. It is a key reason I decided to stay in Nashville all these years.


  • Monday, December 17, 2018 1:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "Parents don't make mistakes because they don't care, but because they care so deeply." - Berry Brazelton

    As a parent of a young woman on the autism spectrum, I'm realizing there's a fine line between accommodating and crippling Morgan. I am forever tripping over that line. The Judgers only trip me more. The Getters keep me trying.

    You see, there are two Morgans.  The one I see at home is confident and assured, able to express her wants and needs most of the time, able to create, and even crack a dry joke.

    Then there is the Morgan out in public.  The one that tears at my heart, because she's so anxious about "Too Many Friends", uncomfortable places, not enough schedule, too much schedule,... She has two reactions to the stress of public gatherings.  One is to loudly announce her discontent to everyone, and the other is to completely shut down.

    A while back, Morgan participated in an exhibition basketball game.  Things were just a little noisy and chaotic.  She squeezed her eyes shut, and lowered her head to disappear.  I watched from a distance as peers passed her by, moving on to others who met them with smiles.  Morgan's self isolation continues to cost her so many opportunities.  Whenever this happens, everything in me wants to jump in and rescue her (and I have on several occasions), but I realize there's going to be a time when I'm no longer able to be that link of understanding between her and the world.  In order to make it out there, she will have to somehow find it within herself to reach back to those who reach out to her.  Daily prayers go up for her social graces, and others' understanding.

    Thankfully, we had a successful event recently, which gave me a little renewed hope.  Morgan was asked to pass out programs for a community gathering with Borderless Arts Tennessee.  She was given an active roll, and rose to the occasion.  She also sat along side friends to do a little creative activity.  Later, when she announced she was "Tired and All Done", friends gave a knowing smile.  Morgan was asked to help present a couple of awards, and continued to hang with a little encouragement.  She even managed a smile for the camera, in the middle of her protests. 

    I. Just. LOVE. the Getters, and I'm most thankful for the Knowers, like Dr. Temple GrandinEmelyne Bingham, and other amazing women on the spectrum for reminding me to continue to challenge Morgan.

    In my parenting experience, I've had many proud moments, and some very humbling ones. When our children are flying high, we can be tempted to pat ourselves on the back, thinking we've got it all together.  In those times of pride, shame on me if I'm ever a Judger of another parent, who's loving their child the best way they know how.  "But for the grace..."

    Until Next Time,

    Know The Hope!

    Tammy



  • Tuesday, August 28, 2018 8:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "There is something to be said for sitting still and letting things come clear, the way morning fog burns off the lake." - George Witte

    OJ and sunshine

    Sitting here, with a glass of orange juice, nursing a summer cold. There's a beautiful blue sky today. Hoping a little sunshine, and sunny thoughts, will clear this head fog

    Bristol viewIn early August, Allison treated her dad to a getaway to celebrate his 60th birthday. They took a trip to Bristol, or as Morgan puts it, "Around the circle, ready to race!" They had been planning this for a few months. Allison found a little place, with a peaceful view, not far from the race track.

    A friend gifted Rudy with some great tickets on the start-finish line. The week before, weather forecasts were not looking so good.  I could tell dad was getting in the dumps, thinking the race might not happen. Morgan and mom were sending up lots of weather prayers.  Thankfully the clouds broke just in time for the race.  The timing couldn't have been better.  That's how God works.

             

    Rudy and Allison have always had a special bond.  They're both hard workers, loyal to a fault.  They give their best on the job, and that gives them precious little time for times like these.  It was a gift for me to see them enjoying this time together; a long drive with time to catch up, a low-tech getaway above the clouds, good food for their bellies and their souls, and of course Bristol Baby!

    When any of us get too caught up, for too long, in the day to day duties, we can find ourselves in a fog.  So thankful for this break in the weather for Rudy and Allison.

    Until Next Time,

    Know The Hope!

    Tammy


  • Friday, June 22, 2018 9:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "You cannot put the same shoe on every foot." - Publilius Syrus

    I am a serious "Lefty".  I remember sitting in right handed desks at school, with my elbow awkwardly hanging off, as I wrote.  The teacher noted my work was "correct, but messy" most of the time.  There was just no way to write from left to right without smearing the lead across the page.  But I loved to write, so the side of my hand stayed silver gray, with creases from the spiral of the notebook.

    Learning to play left handed sports back then was more challenging for me.  When playing baseball, I remember the coach telling me, "Just watch everyone else and do the opposite".  That advice was about as helpful as it sounds. 

    Below; Morgan and her "Lefty" swing.  Photo by Dad

    IMG_4209

    Those memories from my elementary years, as insignificant as they may seem, still whispered "You don't fit".  As a teenager, I decided on my own not to tell my guitar teacher I was left handed.  I learned to play right handed, because I didn't want to be "a problem".  The lack of understanding on everyone's part back then, gave me some first hand experience in the importance of accommodating learning differences.  It's also given me a tender spot for anyone who feels a little out of step with the crowd.

    My daughters, Allison and Morgan, also happen to be "Lefties".  As their mom, I've tried to help them realize early on what a waste of energy it is to chase everyone else's normal.  Instead, I hope they are each able to find what best fits them personally, in learning and in life, so they can be their personal best.

    Cinderella's slipper was perfect for Cinderella.  Find the life-shoe that's just right, and Left, for you. 

    Above; Allison creating a little left handed masterpiece, and Morgan showing off her "comfy tennis slipper shoes".

    Until Next Time, Know The Hope!

    Tammy


  • Monday, April 30, 2018 9:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather that dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.” Barbara Bush

    In the earlier years, I remember praying for God to "fix" Morgan for me.
    As I grew a little, I prayed for God to "fix" Morgan for her.
    Now, after all these years, I see the lives she's touched, the hearts she's softened,... especially mine, and I realize she was NOT the one who needed fixing.

    IMG_0865

    I was so thankful to have the opportunity to share our family's journey with autism recently on Witfromwhitt Radio podcast.  Thank you for listening.

     

    Until Next Time,

    Know The Hope!

    Tammy


  • Monday, April 23, 2018 10:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Contributed by: Kristen Jeter


    Deficient/Deficiency is defined as “the quality or state of being defective or of lacking some necessary quality or element” by the Merriam Webster dictionary.


    On its own it is a harmless word. When used to describe children with autism, by a friend, well that’s more than hurtful.

    And I was angry! As a single mom to twins, who happened to both have an ASD diagnosis I’ve been angry before, I’ve been insulted before. And I’ve been lucky enough to be supported by most of my friends and family. I always tell my girls to try and find the good in a situation. So, instead of continuing to be angry with my former friend, I decided this was a great opportunity. After all, April is Autism Awareness month! So here are 5 DO’s and DON’Ts for supporting those who have a child on the spectrum.

     1. DO: Be Supportive!: It’s easy...take the time to make a phone call, invite them over to your house, be a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Celebrate the great achievements! Support the success!

    DON’T: Be Critcal!: If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all...is a good rule of thumb! If you find yourself feeling the need to lecture, then STOP! We want to feel support from those closest to us!

     2. DO: Learn more and educate yourself!: Go to a therapy session, speak with a BCBA, contact those in your local Autism community. The more you learn and understand about Autism, the better!

    DON’T: Think research makes you an expert!: With technology at our fingertips it’s easy to get caught up. There are lots of articles, peer reviewed journals, etc. out there. There’s no better way to learn than in person, from those of us who live it. Remember we are the expert, advocate, and therapist for our own children! Ask what you should focus on, or how you can help!

     3. DO: Use kind, socially accepted language!: Treat others the way that you would want to be treated. Speaking in a kind, loving and supportive way is best! Person first language is a great example of this! “Your child who has Autism” as opposed to “Your Autistic child”.

    DON’T: Use discriminatory/derogatory language!: There are many words that are offensive. Words have power and they have meaning. Choose yours with tact and consideration!

     4. DO: Teach your children acceptance and understanding as well!: When we teach our children the true meaning of this, they turn into young teens/adults who are understanding and compassionate. They turn into people who will one day ask my child to prom, give them the job or be a friend!

    DONT: Let your child be the bully!: It happens so often. It’s not just kids being kids! By starting conversations now, you can help your children understand the importance of accepting those with differences! How would you feel if it was your child getting pushed on the playground, made fun of on the internet or mocked in the classroom?

     5. DO: BELIEVE and EMPATHIZE!: Be kind! Be patient! Be supportive! Put the “able” before the “disable”! Things will be challenging sometimes and that’s ok. There will also be amazingly profound and wonderful moments too! This is a journey and belief is a powerful thing. Having someone believe in you makes a difference!

    DONT: DOUBT or JUDGE!: Whether it’s doubting a person, an entire family, or judging a therapy style, food choice, or vaccination schedule...doubt and judgements should be left at the door! Just as you make the decisions for your children, we make the ones for ours. While everyone is entitled to their opinions, we need positive support, not doubt and judgements.

    Autism is the best thing that has ever happened to me. If we are going to use words to describe my twins, deficient would not be one of them! Words that I use to describe them are...inspiring, brave, joyful, intelligent, strong, and incredible! They aren’t lacking anything. They aren’t defective. They are perfect! Autism is a part of that. It has positively impacted not only my life, but the lives of those closest to us and I wouldn’t have it any other way!



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(615) 385-2077 ext 1
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