Sunday, October 23, 2016

Three Years at Cornerstone

Three years ago I left education to support families living with autism. What an amazing journey it's been so far! And it seems like it can't possibly be three years already. I realized that I'm still teaching and mentoring, but in a different capacity.
There have been parents who couldn't afford diapers; I've shared that diapers are free to kids with a disability, through Medicaid. I learned this from another mom at the center shortly after starting.
There have been families who've struggled to afford therapy. I've shared that they should sign up for the Waiver, which will give them Medicaid, which can help with copays and deductibles. I learned this from working at the center.
There have been parents who asked if they caused their child to have autism. I've explained that they did not, and assured them that they're good parents.
There have been more than a few parents who told me they haven't told their family about their child's autism diagnosis, because it is a taboo in their culture. They would be shunned. I told them I was sorry that they had to experience that, and that they could lean on the other families at the center for support if needed. I've created closed Facebook groups for them to communicate with each other, share ideas and ask for help in a safe environment.
Parents have cried after meetings and hugged me, expressing that they've never received so much (or any) support.
There is so much more. So much. When I started there were about 60 kids at our two centers. There are now around 125 at three centers. The growth has brought more learning, more experiences, more memories.
It has been such a gift to serve others in this capacity, to give back and help others as I was once helped when I was new to this world. I'm so grateful that Cornerstone's owners saw something in me, and saw a need that could be filled. It's been such a blessing to be a part of this company for three years and I look forward to more to come.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Flashback: October 10, 2012

'Rylie, can you clean up? Put your shoes away please.' Rylie looked around, saw the shoes, picked them up, and went in the other room to put them with the other shoes. She's 21 months old and I've never asked her to do that before. I didn't expect her to be listening, or to know where the shoes go. That's because of what happens when I ask Hayden to put his shoes away:
Hayden, put your shoes away please. (not listening) Hey, Hayden. (twirling his socks) Hayden, are you listening? (no response) I get on his level, look in his eyes. Hayden, can you put your shoes away please? "I can't. I don't know where it goes." They go by the front door. "Where? I don't know. I can't do it." He's not really listening still. 'Come with me. See? Right here. Go back and get your shoes and put them with these.' He goes back to the shoes, but gets distracted and sits down and starts picking at a loose string on his sock. 'Hayden.' No response. 'Hayden did you put your shoes away yet?' No response. Go back, get on his level, ask him to put the shoes away. He snaps back into focus, grabs the shoes, and puts them away.
This is how my day goes. I brush his teeth for him because he has frozen holding his toothbrush in his mouth; get him dressed in the morning so we're not late because I've already asked him to get dressed 15 times and he's still sitting there in his underwear; I remind him to eat the food that's sitting right in front of him at dinner. Being my first child, I didn't know children as young as 21 months could understand and respond appropriately on the first request. Every time I ask Rylie a question and she answers me the first time I ask (and not the 25th), I'm surprised.
What a beautiful gift God gave me, to experience Hayden's worldview first, to let me understand how children with Autism think [to me, his way of thinking is "normal," her way of thinking is a pleasant surprise]. And then to experience Rylie's worldview next, to know that God made us all different so that we can fill in the gaps for others when it's our strength, knowing the favor will someday be returned. I will always need to help Hayden, but he has already helped (and changed) me.