Thursday, April 3, 2014

Keep Calm... I'm an Autism Mom!

Keep Calm & Embrace Autism

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sheckler Foundation - Be the Change Finalist: Please Vote!!!

Please vote for TAWL in the Be the Change Campaign from the Sheckler Foundation!

WEGO Health Activist Award Finalist - Thank You!

To Autism, With Love has been honored with being selected as a finalist in two categories for the WEGO Health Activist Awards! The two categories in which TAWL is a finalist are Best Kept Secret and Rookie of the Year. I want to personally thank everyone for your nominations, endorsements, and support! Without you, none of this would be possible!

Come out to the virtual awards ceremony on March 20th, to support myself and TAWL! The link to the event is posted below. Thank you, again!

Keep Standing TAWL!


Executive Director & Founder of TAWL

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Letter to Disney from an Autism Mom who WAS Disneyland Bound

Dear Disney,

I just found out about the changes to your Guest Assistance Program and although I'm sure that you've been the center of heated outrage from others like me, I'm going to go for a different approach. I am begging for the voice of our community to be heard.

My son has autism. I am physically disabled. I have spent the last two years living in poverty, struggling just to get by. I am finally in a position to take my child to a place we've been dreaming of visiting since he was only 2. Disneyland. Only now, at nearly 7 years old, did I think he was ready to take on your park. I was happily planning our vacation for mid-October, when I found out that your park would no longer be accessible to my child at that time.

You see, all of those "perks" that you have eliminated, have now put me in a position where I am going to have to tell my son, our plans are cancelled. We can not, visit your park, because of a bunch of selfish, scamming individuals. I get why you made changes... I really do! The things people did to get these "perks"... well to me it's quite disgusting. I would wait in line for 2 and a half hours over dealing with lack of mobility, any day of the week!

Accommodations for individual in wheel chairs are totally fair, and if we visit your park, that will be me. But you left out a HUGE portion of the disabled population. In your new policy, you acknowledge auditory, visual, and mobility impairments. You mention epilepsy and several other disorders, but you fail to mention a HUGE demographic. The autism community... better yet, those with neurological disabilities. The ASD community alone represents a huge portion of the US! 1 in 50 school aged kids is on the spectrum. Your new policy effectively excludes each and every one of these kids. And that's not even counting adults or individuals with other neurological conditions.

I ask you, from the bottom of my heart, to revise your policy to include accommodations for this demographic. Give every child a chance to visit this magical place of happiness and wonder! I take no issue with you changing your policies. Something needed to be done to stop the scamming... But do it in a way that doesn't exclude anyone who may need some special accommodations at your park.

I have two choices right now... scramble to go on vacation before October 8th, when your changes will go into effect OR cancel. I am begging you to give us a third option. Allow my child to see a place he's been dreaming of visiting for years. If it was your child, you would want the same.


An Autism Mom Who Was Disneyland Bound

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Different Kind of Bully

Just Plain Wrong

I must have been living in a slightly delusional state because I thought I had moved past the point in my life where I would ever have to deal with bullies. I experienced enough of that crap in middle school. I expected the occasional Mean Girl or cattiness in groups of women, but I truly believed I would never face a bully again.

I was wrong. Just plain, wrong.

Bullying happens to kids, teenagers, and adults from all different walks of life. Bullying happens in a variety of environments. It can happen at school, at work, online, at church, and  in social circles... my point is that no one is exempt from being a target. 

As a special needs mom, I feel that I have an obligation to hold myself to a higher standard. As an advocate for my child and our community, I feel that the standard I hold myself to should be even higher still. At first, when I encountered SN moms who were playing the role of a bully, it left me feeling disheartened, sad, and in shock. I was totally blindsided. Today, when I think about it, I feel nothing but fury and disgust.

How is anyone ever going to take us seriously when what we are fighting against is taking place within our own ranks? We can't go around demanding acceptance and compassion when we ourselves aren't walking the talk. Our message is too important to be compromised by such pettiness, yet I watch it happen time and time again.

The bullying tends to manifest itself quietly. In my experience the people who are perpetuating the negativity are usually pathetically unaware or in blatant denial about their actions. Me? A bully? No way! They don't perceive what they are doing as being wrong because for whatever reason, they feel that their actions are justified.

Bullying goes beyond intimidation, beyond physical and emotional torture, and beyond the obvious. The bullies I've encountered recently aren't the kind that will jump out and bite you. Their wrath comes quietly.

Discreet Ways To Be a Bully

Indirect bullying
Spreading rumors or stories about someone, telling others about something that was told to you in confidence, and excluding others from groups. An example would be if you started a rumor that a friend or colleague was doing something illegal, and the reason that you made up the story was because you thought it would help you get ahead. This would be indirect bullying. Indirect bullying accounts for 18.5% of all bullying.

Social alienation
This is when a bully (or bullies) excludes someone from a group on purpose. It also includes a bully spreading rumors, and also making fun of someone by pointing out their differences. An example: a group of moms started a local support group but have intentionally excluded another mom. They make no attempt to shelter the information but when she asks to participate she is ultimately ignored and blown off. This is social alienation.

This is done by sending messages, pictures, or information using electronic media, computers (email & instant messages), or cell phones (text messaging & voicemail). For instance, if you sent a picture of a snake in an email to a person because you know that they are afraid of snakes, that would be an example of cyber-bullying. According to a survey done in 2003 only 4% of bullying is listed as "other types" and this would include cyber-bullying. Even though this number seems small, the growth of this type of bullying is going up fast because of the spread of technology around the world.

Have you ever excluded someone from something that they deserved to be a part of because you didn't like them? 

Have you found yourself telling lies, sharing secrets, or starting rumors about a person who you are in competition with to help yourself get ahead? 

Have you ever intentionally caused conflict for a person because they simply pissed you off?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have bad news for you... you're a bully.

Younger bullies tend to pick on others because of misdirected stress, peer pressure, or pure jealousy. Adult bullies are usually motivated by power and domination. They want to feel important or superior and they accomplish this by bringing others down. At times they will go to extreme lengths to make this happen and their drive to extinguish the "enemy" seems to increase with each failed attempt.

Dazed and Confused...but Still Human!

In the beginning, it seemed that the natural tendencies of people to seduced by evil, were suspended in my virtual world. The crowd that gathered on our page To Autism, With Love was an amazing group and I became immersed in a world filled with love, laughter, support, and generosity.

When the world wide web first launched, before email became a standard form of communication, the crowds fled excitedly to online forums as people realized that what they were experiencing was absolutely life changing!  We suddenly had this amazing ability to connect with people from all walks of life, from all over the world, and we could do this from the comfort of our home or office. We treated each other, and this new technology, with an incredible amount of respect. Porn and advertising scams have always existed in the shadows, but they were in the background and failed to consume very much of our energy. We thrived on high moral values and self-confidence through this new medium of communication. It was a once in a lifetime experience. It was special.

The special became lost as the masses swarmed the web, bringing their nasty attitudes and vicious words along with them.

In the very first days of TAWL, I was most excited about having a support group of like-minded women who understood our daily struggles. I began talking to many of them on a regular basis and ultimately expanded our team to a group of 18 women, located all across the country.

For the first time in my life, I felt completely at home. These women were a breath of fresh air! They truly were passionate about something greater than themselves and they were genuinely supportive of me and the organization. I grew to trust them and confided in them daily. I was always amazed at the loving words and unconditional support that came from these women and although they didn't know it, they were the answer to my prayers.

I had never felt that I "fit in" with many of the other page admin and bloggers, but once I built my team, none of that seemed to matter anymore! 

Which is why, when I first began to suspect that something wasn't quite right, I thought I was just being paranoid. I convinced myself that a group of girls on the team who were being unusually quiet, were only trying to give me space. I was going through a really rough time and they just wanted to let me get through it. Surely, these friends who knew my every struggle and victory wouldn't turn on me!

It quickly became apparent just how wrong I was. The girls who had previously set off alarms inside of me become more and more distant and I knew that I needed to address the problem before it grew to unmanageable proportions. As they say, when they stop talking TO you, they start talking ABOUT you.

In two months time our once solid team had turned into a team divided by invisible boundaries, and though I tried to locate the root of the problem, I was having trouble eliciting the truth from those who weren't so happy with me. I made more than my fair share of attempts to resolve any unspoken issues, but I was met with words of reassurance or with radio silence. I gave them a vehicle with which to address their concerns, yet they stood silent. I overlooked things that were said or remarks that were made, always trying to maintain a positive stance. Time and time again, they declined to take advantage of my pleas for feedback. I didn't want to break up the team... I just wanted a resolution.

The Truth Will Set You Free

After weeks of emotional turmoil the truth was thrown at me and it was a heavy weight to bear. I knew deep down  that something was awry, but I NEVER could have imagined how deep the cracks ran. I NEVER could have thought that what was going on in the private conversations  between these ladies was a calculated web of distrust, hatred, and betrayal.

The same girls who would tell me I was an awesome friend, profess their loyalty and their love, and smile in my direction were developing a behind the scenes plan to ruin my reputation and along with it, my dreams. These girls who I thought were my friends, were searching for any fault or flaw or crack that they could find in my armor, and had every intention of using that weakness to take me down.

This was bullying at it's ugliest. The things that were taking place were almost too much to bear... I couldn't understand how grown women would spend so much time and energy HATING another person so much, yet pretending to be a friend. 

I still endure bullying... It comes from all across the Facebook community. Most of what I experience is isolation and alienation. Sometimes, it hurts. But I've come to realize that even though this silent bullying does impede the success of our organization, it fuels my desire to grow without the assistance of others. 

Now that I have that off of my chest, I want to address the bullies directly... 

Dear Bully,

I know that what you are doing or have done, doesn't seem to fit the typical definition of bullying. You probably don't even think you are doing anything wrong. But I'm pleading with you to take a good look at yourself and if you think you may be bullying another person... STOP! It is hurtful. It is depressing. It's a waste of your time and mine! Life is so much easier when you are smiling and showing kindness to other... even those who you don't like! Life is too short to spend it making others miserable... Use this opportunity to bring joy to others... not hurt! 

With love,