April is Autism Awareness Month. There are so many forms of Autism that professionals have deemed it a “spectrum disorder.” That means you can have one individual with autism who is highly-functioning, holds a job, and you may not even know they have a diagnosis. Then, you could have another individual with autism who is afraid to leave the house, is non-verbal, and depends heavily on others for help. Every individual with autism between the extremes is still a member of our community, and they matter.
Let me introduce you to two guys in our programs who are productive members of our organization. First, Hunter. He was a 24-week preemie and is now a 25-year-old man! There are so many things I love about seeing Hunter when I go over to our AIM Day Services programming. First, every time I walk in the door he has the world’s largest smile. It’s literally from ear-to-ear and is the best thing you could ever hope to see. Second, he gives the best hugs! Third, he loves music and has serious rhythm. He doesn’t dance, per se, but he will rock back and forth to just about any song on the radio. That’s usually how you know where he’s at, too! If the radio is on… that’s where you’ll find him. He is just one of the nicest, most easy going individuals. I appreciate people like that because my personality wouldn’t be classified as “easy going” most of the time.
Now, someone else who is just the most unassuming, nicest, friendliest guys you could ever want to meet: Byron! Did you know that sweet, quiet Byron can juggle? That’s right. According to our own Community Education Coordinator, Troy Bowers, if you walk up and hand Byron three juggling ball. He’s a regular magician! That’s not the autism I hear about in the news. Is it for you? He’s participated in our softball games, picnics, and just about anything else we ask him if he wants to participate in. Oh, and he also makes the best friends. Normally when I see Byron, I also see his good friend, David. They are a wonderful duo and remind me what real friendship is supposed to look like.
Our folks are all unique. They all have quirks and traits that make them different and special. They are just like you and me. I have many quirks (too many to list, really), and I’m sure you do as well (and if you don’t think so, just ask the person sitting next to you). We are all the same in that way. I point that out to simply say this – our people are just like you! Just because they may look at things a little differently or need additional help with things does not make them less than anyone else. They are part of this community the same as you and me. We need to value them as such every day of the year – and not only during Autism Awareness Month.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating: If you’d like to meet some of the people we serve for yourself, take a tour of our facilities or see if employment with Bona Vista is something you’d be interested in, let me know! You can call me at 765-457-8273, e-mail me at email@example.com.