April ‘s Autism Awareness has comes to an end for us and to be honest with you all, I am relieved. It can be emotionally tiring. I know our work makes a difference and I know that it will continue to impact those around us in positive ways but sometimes it can take a toll on my brain. I know i is needed and I do know it matters, so , on I go… as we all do.
“Critical Thinking – The Other National Deficit”
As I was driving north on I-95 this past weekend, I saw those words written on a bumper sticker and they caught my attention. I spent the next 45 minutes of my drive pondering whether critical thinking can really be considered a national deficit. Sadly, I came to no conclusion, but I did get out of the car with a stronger sense that as a parent I need to be doing all I can to foster critical thinking in my two teenagers. As a long time educator, and now a business owner of Engineering For Kids of Central Virginia, I was also energized by the knowledge that our engineering classes and camps do provide unique opportunities for children to develop those critical thinking skills.
BoyswithRobotPictureI sat down this morning and wrote down just a few positive attributes I’ve had the pleasure of observing children develop in our camps and classes:
An active mind – and an active body
Feelings of success and accomplishment
Independence and confidence to try new things
Social skills and teamwork
Communication skills to share ideas and solve complex problems
New friendships while “unplugging” from their devices
Skills that may turn into life-long passions
The ability to view perceived mistakes as the opportunity to make changes and try again
Have a fun and safe summer! Be sure to check our camp options and contact us with any questions.
Owner and educator
At Autastic Avenues, we offer social group instruction. Our current group, mostly 6-10 yr. olds, Builders and Gamers, meets on Saturday mornings.
Builders and Gamers use activities that are appealing to kids (Building- Lego/arts and crafts, and Games- cards, board games) to teach the principles of friendship. This is not a play date. It is not a play group. We do refer to it as a social group, but it is more than that. Cooperation and collaboration are not just buzz words. We depend on cooperative participants and collaborative ideas. Every member brings a different set of skills and interests. Everyone learns to be part of the group, even when the activity may not be someone’s favorite. Learning to follow a group plan and actively participate (with a positive attitude) can be a challenge. Letting others have a turn when it is a favorite activity is another type of challenge. We learn to stop and clean up, even when the Lego set is NOT finished. (This one is hard for me too!!) While we are learning how to be accepted into the group, we are learning to accept others into our own group. Builders and Gamers welcome and include anyone interested in being part of our group. Our more experienced members are great mentors to new friends. Our group mascot, Crash the ferret, is a frequent visitor. Crash is great at starting conversations.
We love it so much that we not only want to experience it ourselves, but we want to bring it to as many people in and around Richmond as we can. We believe that play is an integral part of life, and can be the best motivator for good behavior, good character development, and even hard work that there is. Even so, we also know that it can be a little hard to come by in our day-to-day lives.
Hello, Internet! My name is Cole Szymonik, and I have autism Asperger’s Syndrome. Normally, the term “syndrome” implies a debilitating mental condition that the victim must deal with for his or her entire life, but Asperger’s is different; Asperger’s is a debilitating mental condition that the victim must deal with for his or her entire life that can make him or her smarter. That’s right – Asperger’s has pros (like making me a nerd) and cons (like making me a nerd). Of course, in order for this passage to make sense, I will have to elaborate on this idea.
One of the greatest benefits of having Asperger’s syndrome is a boost in cognitive ability and learning skills. I find this very useful when going to school, playing video games, or interpreting modern art (Okay, that blob is red and weird, so… does it represent the artist’s anxieties, or…). The ability to learn quickly is very useful in a workplace environment, so Asperger’s helps in that regard, as well.
That said, Asperger’s syndrome has its downsides, too. One of the biggest problems caused by Asperger’s is the intensification of natural emotions – good for watching drama, but bad for keeping quiet in school. I sometimes get in trouble because of my feelings, so I have to go to a special class called “Social Skills”. The class is an uncomfortable tradeoff – It helps me deal with my emotions at the cost of my intelligence and my sanity. It is also very difficult to find people similar to myself, so I feel like a social outcast.
But you kind of are a social outcast.
Oh yeah, punk?
And what makes you think I’m a social outcast?
Well, for one thing, you’re talking to yourself. Typing to yourself, even.
Why, you —
…Thanks, I needed that. Anyway, I often feel like a social outcast, so…there’s that.
As can be seen, Asperger’s syndrome has both upsides and downsides. Insert good conclusion sentence here. See ya!
I’d like to preface this letter by acknowledging the determination and dedication our mother has for you. She has been able to start a movement in the name of you and everything you stand for.
As your sister, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to know someone as kind and innocent and gentle as you are. You do not see the cruelty in this world, and that is something everyone is not able to claim. Sometimes I am scared for you and your future, I innately want to protect you from the evils and hardness of real life. Although I know that we only have control over ourselves and cannot control the forces of nature that surround and influence our everyday life, I also realize there will be people who come into your life that don’t know about the gifts that you teach n all you do. Many may not understand why you may do the things you do. Do not let their lack of knowledge and naivety taint your soul.
I know that I can only protect you when I’m with you and as you get older those moments lessen, but you are smart and I know you will continue to change and impact this world.
You are one of a kind Marky, stay raw and stay innocent.
We, your family will be here for you always no matter what.
Words cannot begin to explain the emotions and experiences you have taught me and allowed me to feel.
I love you so very much!
In today’s society, we are expected to wear many hats. Some of us not only wear them but, also design and make our hats too. Being a parent is a perfect example of a high-stress situation and when you have a special needs child the level can sky rocket. Research has shown low to moderate levels of stress are actually good for us because it keeps us moving and motivated. However, high levels of stress are considered as big “no-nos” because of the harm it does to the body. It is suggested that when you start to feel stressed you take a break and do something relaxing to lighten the load. The question is, “what are we supposed to do for relaxation?” If you are a person that is used to spending most of their day multitasking and being nothing less than a superhero, how do you turn it off for some “me time”?
As Spring Break approaches for many families, road travel will be increasing . If you are one of the many families that will be on the road, whether by car, train or plane- here are some ideas to make it all a little bit more pleasant for ALL in the car.
When we found out that we were having twins – I heard “wow you will have your hands full”. Then when our twins were born too early and our littlest one – Anna Kathryn – was only 2 lbs., I heard “you are in our prayers”. Than when we got the diagnosis that Anna Kathryn had Prader Willi Syndrome, I heard “God chose you”.
Family, friends and even strangers mean so well when they tell you these little tidbits of what they think are kind words. The fact is when your family enters the world of being a “special needs family” we are no more prepared, chosen or special than any other family. We are thrust into a world that we know little to nothing about – but what we do know is that we love our children like I hope most parents do and we start our journey albeit a different one.
In a lot of ways Anna and Kayla are typical twin sisters, they fight, they laugh, they cuddle, they fight..but then there are the differences. Anna has spent at least a third of her life in the hospital, which means Kayla has spent one third of her life with an absent mom, too much time sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a hospital room and way too much cafeteria food.
I was determined to make our family just like every other family, I did not feel “stronger”, “chosen” or any of the other things so many people tried to tell me I was. I am tired, frustrated, confused and even sometimes angry. I think families like ours do ourselves an injustice – WE are different – we are not like other families – I mean in some ways sure we are – we work, we sleep (sometimes), our kids go to school…but it is different.
When Anna, in addition to having Prader Willi Syndrome, having over 16 spine surgeries and than in April had a sugery that resulted in her becoming a Quadriplegic – our family once again heard those kind words from a lot of those same people. But the fact is our family has faced many, many challenges that thankfully most families do not have to face.
As we embark on this next new “normal” – I think I realize that we are perhaps “chosen” – we choose to make it work, we choose to celebrate tiny milestones and giggles that most families may never notice, we choose to allow ourselves to cry, we choose to learn how to ask for help, we choose to realize how this one small child that has struggled her entire life – has changed us! We are blessed (and tired)