Posted on

Art, Autism, Affirmation…

Concepts like faith, politics, emotions, behavior can be interpreted in so many ways… An individual in the spectrum can wait months before they can express the meaning of the ideas/messages received.

In this instance, my daughter in between climbing trees, collecting branches and running… unannounced, drew her interpretation of Jesus on the cross with a long branch. She was so concentrated, she was immersed in the process. I could not speak to her. She would not answer my questions.

She used her feet and fingers to clean up the sand and redo what she did not like.

Her question as she wrote the word PEACE?

People did not love Jesus and  they killed him?

As a parent, what do I say? I can’t over analyze the response. She’s almost 9. I can’t impose my thought process, belief.

I said: “That’s a good question and I think you know the answer.”

I have not imposed religion to her. I share faith. I share being empowered by doing good deeds. I remind her we must be thankful. We work hard.

I hope she will continue to use art to express meaning and find answers to the questions her mother will not always know what to say.

 

Posted on

About Sesame Street, Inclusion, Reality

The media is overwhelmed, reacting to the inclusion of a muppet with autism. If it only was that easy in real life…

@Ellen DeGeneres tweet is reflective of the vague words used by most media outlets – –  People make people feel included I dare to add, not a muppet!

The effort and expense used to create this new character is immense. Many fortunate individuals are a part of this project. I am very glad parents of individuals in the spectrum contributed.

My issue with the new characters lies with the words shared by my daughter in the spectrum. As soon as she saw the picture (I swear I had not made any comment to her or she had not heard me say a thing about it) she says:

 “Ridiculous! How can a frog have autism?”

She insists:  “Autism is not scary!” And reminds me she wants her own reality shown!

 

And she is correct. Autism cannot be portrayed by a muppet. Autism must be portrayed by individuals in the spectrum – the happy moments and the nasty ones. This is the one alternative being shown to kids. Believe me, it cannot be the option that validates the needs of millions of people. Why? It is not real.

Enough with wanting to sugar coat autism. There is no way Julia’s presence (a muppet) in Sesame Street will guarantee an increase in empathy and tolerance from those not surviving a many times brutal diagnosis. Yes, it is brutal because most individuals do not have to deal with a meltdown, torn clothes, sleeplessness, loss of cognitive skills, not being taught how to communicate, being 30 years old and not having bladder control – for starters. Julia I doubt will touch upon these nasty, easily ignored and misunderstood realities. I hope I am wrong.

When producers and media executives are ready to have a serious conversation about autism, behaviors, including individuals in the spectrum in their shows — my daughter and I are here. We have plenty of ideas believe me.

In the meantime, we shall continue to share our message. Many times this involves demanding inclusion as people, not dolls, muppets, etc. — EVERYWHERE!

 

  • Each picture included – even with the smiles – represents a challenge overcome. Meltdown included! TV must show this and more!!

   

Posted on

Say it with me: We the Parents Make it Happen!

 

Last January 19, 2017 at the Palm Harbor Library (FL) more than 35 families from Tampa Bay and beyond responded and confirmed the need to hold meetings with content created by, led and with meaning to parents.

Reality is, all families would have benefitted from the messages shared. The universal message of parental empowerment, commitment, dedication, restlessness applies to us all.

In the case of families caring and sacrificing for individuals in the autism spectrum our encounter was even more meaningful because nothing like this had happened before. A panel with significant information on Employability took place — organized/led by parents, for parents.

Three local heroes shared their experiences – how they created new paths, ways, raised their voices quite loud to tell the world — “my adult has a place in your world. Work with me, listen to me and it will happen.”

Lo and behold, they made it. Why?

Because, WE THE PARENTS MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Nothing can stop the might, inventiveness, realism, care of a parent who knows the existing rules may not always apply to our kids. Yet, rules are rewritten all the time!!

Parent, rewrite your own rules — Guide, Educate, Support and Train an Adult in the Spectrum! NOW!

AUTISM AND EMPLOYABILITY

Posted on

Volunteer work in the Happy Kingdom!

Yes, at 8/9 years old doing volunteer work is extremely important.

But wait, at this age kids should be in parks, riding bikes, some may say playing computer games is part of being a kid these days. But T. and her friend S. were taken to the Thrift Store, part of the Homeless Empowerment Program in Clearwater.

T. and S. know each other. They play great together. They leave each other alone. They drive each other crazy. They are kids learning about life. They are kids and in most instances, they’d be regarded as one of the bunch. It is wonderful and as parents, we are so proud.

The kids wondered why did we have to volunteer. We explained in simple terms – We want to give back and be thankful for everything that is good in our lives because others are not as fortunate. Explanation accepted.

While volunteering, reality is more than obvious and we moms start realizing that 10 years from now our kids would not survive 5-10 min in any job. We were not there to play and personal interests confirmed how much work was to be done (sorting clothes and placing them on hangers). Once the personal interests were no longer thrilling and the realization that actual work is expected, this is when our duty as parents became really fun. Looking for entertaining explanations to keep them focused was a live rendition of every reason we’ve heard moms say for hundreds of years. Let’s sort by color, by specific item, do this number of items and we’ll do this,  we have so many minutes left, that’s enough I need you here right now. And you can imagine the rest.

Sensory needs, literal comprehension, specific interests, lack of focus, a new situation and space, the temptation of the site; these are realities our kids and many others must learn to address, overcome, manage, inquire with others who’ve been thru the same and above all, ACT NOW! Our kids must learn to act now. We the parents must act now.

Job training programs targeting the specific needs of anyone – with and without a diagnosis – is a reality that needs to be worked on immediately. Proactive parents will not wait for the government to create these training programs. Proactive parents will work with training centers to provide services based on specific needs. Training centers will welcome parental participation.

This was a very successful first time. This will be a long road. We’ll be back and make it as fun as we can. We’ll be sure our kids will gain valuable skills while being real, engaged and loving life.

More updates soon…

 

NOTE:  Jan. 19, 2017 was a wonderful day in Tampa Bay FL — The Panel Autism and Employability took place. For the first time, parents presented incredible stories on how they achieved working with, training and obtaining employment for their adults in the spectrum. Plus, an adult in the spectrum shared the lessons learned while creating his own business as a fitness trainer.

The volunteer experience was presented by one of the panelists. Being wise, we took her advice and gave it a try. And our  eyes were opened one more time… Thank you FM!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on

#Autismisnotscary at the Women’s March!

As a parent, I realize I must constantly open more doors to assist the process of understanding what life can be about…  With a diagnosis like autism, on any given day, it can be so challenging to help your offspring understand the meaning of different situations we can witness. Today was a breeze. Today was all about being connected and wanting to be a part of the world.

Our presence at the Women’s March in St. Pete FL was so enriching, exciting.

Our sign said:

REMEMBER:  AUTISM IS NOT SCARY!

WE NEED MORE +MEDIA COVERAGE

My daughter was all ready to ask for pictures, to raise her megaphone voice and say it – Autism is not scary!

97% of those present, who engaged her, more than agreed. High fives were exchanged, thumbs up and pictures were taken. Or she squarely requested, people read my sign!!

The greatest affirmation we were at the right place… the number of people who acknowledged their first hand understanding of our message because they had a child, relative in the spectrum. Some were there, others could not or were not able to handle a crowd, the over stimulation, etc. And they understood and they thanked us for being there, for our message. Others simply agreed and said it is about time someone said it.

Powerful words from a young teacher (special needs classroom) approached us, took a picture and said: “I am so proud of you bringing your child. Sharing your reality. Above all, living life and confirming having a child in the spectrum is not a death sentence.” I smiled, thanked her and we moved on because more people wanted cutie’s picture.

I asked Thomais what was her favorite part of the day and she said everything.

Thank you to all the individuals, families, mothers, fathers, husbands, children present. This event should be held yearly!

Our day ended perfectly with the powerful voice of a local singer, delighting us with his version of “Imagine” by John Lennon —

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Read more: John Lennon - Imagine Lyrics | MetroLyrics

And it is up to us to make the world be as one… because Autism is not scary!

Posted on

How to get the local media to report on events in your community?

As we get ready for our event Autism and Employability, we approach the press wanting to get exposure and let Tampa Bay know their involvement is needed.

Our latest experience…
– Sent note via FB to local reporters stating:

Help me invite Chick-fil-A HR folks!
They should participate in our event – Autism and Employability
They must #presumecompetence and realize that #Autismisnotscary
https://www.facebook.com/events/192420104495454/

Man with autism sues Chick Fil A for discrimination! http://www.10news.com/news/national/chick-fil-a-discriminated-against-job-applicant-with-autism-lawsuit-claims

To our surprise, this morning we met Gayle Guyardo from WFLA News Channel 8​ in Tampa Bay. She interviewed us and a report will be shown this Wed Jan 18 –  AM and PM shows!

Lesson learned…   Persistence, Insistence… with a touch of controversy that ties into your reality, makes it happen!
We can do this…

#DisabilityinMedia #HollywoodInclusion

** We’ll  be very surprised if Chick fil A participates in our event. We shall see what is going to happen with the lawsuit against them.

Posted on

I am an educated woman, I earn minimum wage and I get food stamps . Here’s why.

by Yadira V. Calderon

I am obsessed with traveling, discovering and understanding life. I became the editor of a trade publication for the baking industry and visited most Spanish speaking countries. I did Logistics for the cement industry. I taught American Government in China. Everywhere I went, as a tourist or as a professional, I sought the opportunity to interact with families, experience commitment and going beyond the expectations to achieve that goal. I saw my education and curiosity as the means to an end.

Six years ago everything was about to change and I did not know it. The drive, the push, the non-stop urge to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or ride the Trans-Siberian train all became futile and senseless when my daughter regressed into autism from one day to the next. December 2010 forever changed my life and perspective.

The reality of autism in its beginning is nothing like the current representations in the media or what is taught by academia. Regressive autism is brutal, damaging and painful. My child was learning three languages, smiling, had eye contact, eating healthy and sleeping. In less than a month, it was all gone and the race began to figure out how to understand this unwanted newcomer.

Earning an income, traveling and building a safety nest for the future was no longer prioritized. The need to live minute by minute became the way to survive the meltdowns, being awake from 2 to 5 in the morning as your child screams for hours on end, vomits torrents of undigested food or hums incessantly.

Time passed and now that my child is in school I made the attempt to work 30-35 hours per week. The lack of flexibility from an employer is the biggest slap on the face. The extremes of autism do not exert control while I worked. The professionals that are trained to work with your child can only do so much based on the resources provided by the system. Since I had to work to earn a living and pay the bills, my child had to go to after school care. This is when the battle intensified as I moved from center to center seeking that committed organization that trains its employees, practices inclusion and acceptance.

When my child’s behaviors were no longer adequately managed by the care center personnel, I made the bold choice to quit the safe and steady source of income. I could no longer tolerate not knowing what triggered my child’s behaviors and not being there to reassure her it would all be fine. Mom is here and let’s work it out.

The hustling, surviving, living on a minimal income has been my peace of mind. I drop off and pick up my child. I create quality of life with very little. I know what is happening when she’s not in school.

As parents we should not have to make these choices. But this is not the world we live in. Becoming the parent of a child with special needs creates extremes in our existence. If you are not humble, creative and learn to seek the support of those who survived it, you shall create an environment of greater pain and suffering. There is no remediation. There is no therapy. There is no alternative. Sole reliance on self love and your inner strength will guide you in this path. If you did not know you had inner strength, find it quickly, your child will need you very, very strong.

I am so proud of the fact my child is happy, healthy and is learning to love life. Being educated, working minimal hours and receiving government assistance makes me a better person. This current sacrifice is the greatest reaffirmation of motherhood and love I can experience. I know this will not last a lifetime and I still want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with my daughter by my side.

 

Yadira V. Calderon has two or three part-time jobs (retail store, supports adults with special needs and translations/social media). She has a M.A. in International Relations and Diplomacy, speaks three languages fluently, has lived in 6 countries and visited another 27.  

Yes,  Yadira is looking for flexible, stable and rewarding employment opportunities!

More details here:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/multimedia-mom-inspired-autism-yadira-calderon?trk=prof-post

Posted on

The Happy Kingdom embraces Autism!

Blessings for all…
We complete 2016 with progress, challenges and plenty of possibilities…
We wish you endless amounts of beauty for every day of 2017 and that every decision made will be beneficial…

Each photo has a story, a challenging detail and beauty at the same time…
Those are our days and we welcome them, willing to overcome and love every instant…
Thank you for being with us in the Happy Kingdom!

Posted on

About the #media and its reporting, portrayal of individuals with disabilities

The #media and its reporting, portrayal of individuals with disabilities (obvious and non-obvious) is dismal.
Reporting of events having to do with pets or gory stories are prioritized over 15-30 seconds of reality from a disabled perspective.

 

** FACT: Stories with roles based on a disabled individual are not a part of TV shows/movies – As the The Ruderman Family Foundation White Paper states – 95% OF CHARACTERS WITH DISABILITIES ARE PLAYED BY ABLE-BODIED ACTORS

** FACT: Out of 8 events I organized – promoting acceptance, inclusion, awareness, parental empowerment — 2 received media coverage (greatly appreciate support from Natalia Rodriguez and Gaby Romero)
https://www.facebook.com/JustAutismNoPanicRight/events/…

How to correct this?

  •  Don’t only report the tragic stories
  • Marlee Matlin, Temple Grandin cannot be the only individuals with disabilities that will be referred to by the media – every community has its stars and they must be a part of the discourse
  • Use language appropriate to the story — NO PITY!
  • A weekly segment (TV and Newspaper) reporting the ins and outs of disabilities in all communities – NEEDED (reporting must include a novice or trained individual with a disability; thus opening the door to guarantee employment and fulfill ADA)
  • CREATE a campaign – nationwide – clearly stating – Special Needs are not scary, Autism is not scary, Down Syndrome is not scary, Cerebral Palsy is not scary,etc… The masses must hear this clear and bold message from the news and the artists that appear in People Entertainment Tonight. Until this happens the disability community will remain ostracized and discriminated…
    Enjoy my daughter telling Teacher Christopher Ulmer – Autism is not scary. Autism is a beautiful heart deep inside you. https://www.facebook.com/specialbooksbyspecialkids/videos/750678288367487/
  • TV shows/Movies – disabled role must be played by a person with a disability (i.e.: my daughter created a video requesting Disney they create a TV program with a princess with #Autism – and she wants to play the role of the Princess)

As Danny Woodburn (actor) states – – “… complex and pervasive problem that will take a long time to remedy. However, it is imperative that we take steps in the right direction immediately with a few concrete practices.”

My daughter and millions are ready.

 

The Ruderman White Paper: Employment of Actors with Disabilities in Television
http://www.rudermanfoundation.org/…/TV-White-Paper_final.fi…

From the White Paper:

The Argument We ARE Making

Instead we believe that it is absolutely unacceptable to have 95% of cable and broadcast characters with disabilities played by actors without disabilities. It is a matter of social justice to have a large segment of our population authentically represented in the mass entertainment that is television and scripted, dramatized stories. It is necessary to create an environment where actors with disabilities have access to play characters with disabilities. It is also necessary to reduce stigma surrounding “invisible” disabilities such as mental illness. Only by having actors who are open about those disabilities will we slowly create a society that doesn’t shun or shame a vast segment of its population. We have to tell stories about people with a variety of disabilities and we have to be fair in representing them accurately. Only then will we have more realistic stories that reflect our society. We will not choose a number and say that this is how many characters with disabilities need to be played by actors with disabilities. But we are saying that it’s about time we start ensuring that it’s more than 5%.

 

Autism: The Happy Kingdom The New York Times Washington Post Publishers WeeklyVariety HuffPost Lifestyle PBS Entertainment Tonight Entertainment Weekly Screen Actors Guild Awards FOX 13 News – Tampa Bay 10News WTSP WFLA News Channel 8ABC Action News – WFTS – Tampa Bay NPR Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Voice of America – VOA Penguin Random House BuzzFeed Books HarperCollins Children’s Books Children’s Books by Random House of Canada Yadira Calderon TelemundoUnivision Noticias Tari Hartman Squire Vanessa Calderon Arianna Huffington The Huffington Post Neurodiversity Harold Reitman
#Disabiilty #Selfemployment #Presumecompetence #Autismisnotscary #StopMediaDiscrimination Sofia Lachapelle TV Sofia MI Diario Miami Herald Donald J. Trump Melania Trump Hallmark Movies & Mysteries CNN The Economist Al Jazeera English America with Jorge Ramos PerezHilton.com Lifetime MBC BOLLYWOOD #GoodyAwards