Autism Awareness Month, Year 2-0

Dominating our 20th annual Autism Awareness Month are issues of finding transportation to work; wages management;* that yet, unfinished art website, and my own next career move. Grace was diagnosed with autism in 1997—so, two decades with this known “disorder” are in the books. Promoting awareness long ago became less of a focus and more of an emphasis on navigating each stage of the journey the best and the most prepared as we could. We managed to tackle the many issues that growing up brings, with awareness being a fallout of living with autism.

We’ve intentionally scaled way back on Grace’s art business as launching her into adulthood—creating and managing employment and living supports have *majorly* monopolized our time the last nine months. I woke up one morning early this month with these “words” as my first thoughts: VR (Vocational Rehabilitation,) PPL (payroll agency,) SSI (social security income,) and ECF (Employment and Community First CHOICES—the state’s first new program for disAbility supports to roll out in more than a decade….We’re very grateful for the new program but it’s been an all-consuming task complicated by all of the aforementioned massive red-tape entanglement with government agencies and services. It’s provided many new opportunities for me to stretch and flex and exercise my life principles).

We did say yes to one request for an exhibition in the downtown Franklin Art Scene where local merchants host art shows for this quaint south of Nashville town’s version of an art crawl. Grace Goad’s work remains hanging at Jack Yacoubian Jewelers, 300 Public Square, along with artist with Asperger’s Sarah E. Vaughn, through the end of Wednesday, May. 3. Grace continues to benefit from a successful representation with ArtLifting, which pitched the following story linked below this screenshot:

The Artistic Side of Autism, NewsChannel 5

Much of the hysteria surrounding autism within our community seems to have plummeted from a hot, gurgling, angry boil of controversy to more of a simmer, though pockets of rage and dis- ease (sic) still exist. My focus has always been to look for and discover the beauty and possibilities in each individual. They are there though they may not be measured in ways that culture generally values and grades worthy. (Survival hint: to heck with culture.) I was thrilled to hear scientist-author Juan Enriquez on Ted Talk radio last week and have been percolating these types of ideas about autism for nearly as long as we’ve been on the journey, thanks to insightful mentors, friends, and authors Gayle Lee and Lyrica Marquez.

Still, we must never romanticize autism and remember how wide its spectrum and be sensitive to the enormous challenges individuals and families face. Two recent articles to that effect of an often overlook, ignored or forgotten segment of our community are here and here. Yes, there are little Einsteins out there, but there’s also individuals who suffer gravely and function at levels of great severity. All must be equally recognized as beautiful, worthy human beings. (If you skipped viewing the video, return and click on the link. Grace does not function at the high end of the spectrum.) (I’m okay with that.)

I am grateful for the challenges and the many lessons that this journey, through the special lens of my daughter, has gifted me. That’s a choice we can all make with the potholes, road blocks, and detours life inevitably brings us. Embrace it, learn from it, find the new route, or stay stuck and mad in what we perceive is the logjam of our lives.

Echoing the current community sentiment: Don’t just be aware. Accept people with autism. And, I’ll add, consider how (or even one thing) you can do to help build a bridge to make the trip a bit easier. Our adult population loses its supports at age 21-22 in most states and can particularly use the hand of a friend, an employer, an understanding co-worker, neighbor…The list goes on. Thank you. xoxo

*wages management: individuals with disAbility who receive social security income (a small amount) cannot make over a certain amount each month in order to prevent losing their benefits.

As long as the link remains active the above news piece can also be viewed here with a written version of the story.

6 Responses to Autism Awareness Month, Year 2-0

  1. So good! Thank you for sharing these thoughts, I kept thinking “yes!” as I read it. More, more, please!

    • Thank you for your enthusiastic response, Sue. It’s always risky in our community because obviously not everyone sees it this way. This way has allowed me to find the joy amid the challenge. And there may be “more” coming depending on what path I take next for my future. ThEre’s always that 2nd book I need to finish. x

  2. Thank you for this Leisa. I’ve been teaching art to a couple of young adults and have learned much in the process. Best to you and your daughter on your journeys.

    • Wonderful Lauren! I have saved the article you shared and you are certainly welcome to where it here, too. As you can tell, this is very much my life. x

  3. I wanted to thank you for the links, which I will be investigating when I have time. I have a brother in law, nearly 60, with autism. My husband is his guardian. His mother is still alive but she’s aging and…you get the picture. It is not an easy situation and I hope to find some inspiration, if not information.
    The Unknown Journey Ahead recently posted…Sheltered (Workshops) #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

    • Yes, these links are more inspiration than helpful information for your immediate situation. You are welcome to contact me and tell me what state you are in and I might be able to figure out where to point you,. x