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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All about empathy and respect…

A diagnosis of autism carries the stigma that individuals in the spectrum are not capable of showing empathy or understanding emotions.

But even in the depth of a massive regression at 2.5yrs old, I could find those moments where my child demonstrated an understanding of emotions — very basic for her age yet it happened.

Now at 8.5 yrs, Thomais is in full grasp of emotions, what they mean, how to handle them. The curiosity to understand others and their existence is intense.

One year ago, she saw homeless people and immediately she asked why were they living/sleeping on the street. I kept the explanation basic and reminded her, just because they don’t have a home does not mean we can’t be considerate.

For months, I heard about the experiences, the homeless, more questions. I kept the message consistent.

Christmas time is here and as she continues to ask about various topics, homelessness included, I let her know we could visit a shelter that helps those who need the support.

She agreed and asked: “but what do they need, we must bring something.”

I said correct, they need a lot of what you have.

She said toys, I said No. Just the basics like shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.

It was agreed her funds would be used to purchase the goods.

I contacted various reporters and Mark Wilson from FOX 13 News recommended we visit Homeless Empowerment Program (HEP) in Clearwater.

Lo and behold our tour took place. We met the founder, Barb Green and our host Ashley Lowery, Director Comm and Devt.

Thomais was extremely curious. The kitchen/dining hall and the Thrift Store were her favorite places.

We gave words of support to each other.

I thanked them for the opportunity to allow my child to learn about aspects of life she is not exposed to — yet, at her young age, she has already learned about rejection based on her behaviors and reactions. I reminded them that as a parent, I refuse to have her grow up rejecting others because they look or behave different.

They thanked me for being proactive and willing to do things differently.

Another seed has been planted. It will be watered, conditioned, treated with more love. She will let us know in due time what the fruit will be and how she’ll share it.

 

NOTES:

  • HEP is a self-sustained community – Families, Veterans, Singles – all benefit from their services. Doctors, nurses, dentists, Professionals in various fields can volunteer. Donations are needed  (details in the website).
  • We’ll return end of January – help in the dining hall! Join us!!
  • I am a parent. I trust my instinct. My past experiences – good and bad – and wonderful people around us guide most of the decisions I make with my daughter.

Find HEP on the Internet!

Website

Facebook

Event on March 18, 2017

 

Resources:

Research 

Psychology Today

Spectrum News

Autism Research Ctr