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Saturday, April 12, 2014

MOMMY, WHAT IS AUTISM?

Michael, my 10 yo asked me this recently.  He had heard me on the phone with Big Coach, discussing the fundraiser we are doing with Parents Run AMOC (Autism Move a thon Orange County).  I used the word “autism” quite a few times and when I was done with the call, Michael asked me his question.  And, even though I know several parents of autistic children, and I have read several magazine articles and blogs on the topic, I couldn’t answer the question.  Here I was lighting up my facebook page blue and posting all the “April is Autism awareness month” fliers and I was clueless.

            All I could think of was my friend Patty's tattoo.  She recently got a tattoo for her son, who has autism, which is a colorful jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing.  All I could think of was the missing piece.  I told him I needed to check the Encyclopedia but that I believed Autism is when a chromosome is missing.  “No, Mommy, you’re thinking of Down Syndrome,” said my 10 yo.  “But in Down syndrome, the person has an EXTRA chromosome.”  I quickly googled it on my phone.  He was right, as usual.  “Mom, you didn’t know what Down Syndrome is,” said Christian, my 12 yo.  I hate when they make me feel stupid.  The truth is there are just so many things I don’t know but I am always willing to learn.
            So we looked it up on the internet.  According to Autism Speaks:   “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.”  I looked up hopefully from the computer and asked Michael if that explained things.  “That was just a lot of big words,” he said.  And he was right, that was about as clear as mud.
            Well, I said, do you know anyone who is autistic?  “How would I know, Mommy, if I don’t know autism is,” he said.  If this were cross examination and I were his witness, he would have nailed that one.
            I feel really duty bound to make the most out of these teachable moments.  My kids won’t always be coming to me with the “Why and How” questions, and I do my best to answer them in a way that will teach them something.  I went to my friend Laura’s Blog, which is about special needs parenting, specifically, her journey with her oldest son, who has autism.  And who Michael met at a “Photo shoot” at the Boathouse recently.  “I liked Jack, he was really nice,” said Michael, “he really liked the Resolute,” which is our flagship crew shell, our newest 8+, a 60-foot long crew shell which was in the slings.  He’s got good taste, that’s for sure.  We read some of the Blog entries.
            I asked Michael if reading the blogs was helpful.  “Yes,” he said.  “So autism just means you think differently?”  That sounded right. “It’s OK, mommy, I know you can’t explain everything.  I just don’t understand why that’s a fundraiser, don’t we all think differently?”
            Yes, Little Michael, we do all think differently.  If only we could all see the world through a child’s eyes. 
            Do join us for the Zumba Fundraiser we will be having for the Newburgh Rowing Club and the Parents Run AMOC, at the Stewart Gym, Saturday May 24th at 6 pm.  Tickets are $15.00 each and there will be refreshments and raffles as well.  Zumba superstar Kattya Fernandez (who has a son that coaches at NRC) and friends have generously donated their time to these great causes.  For more info, contact Mrs. Lo at juliana@lobiondolaw.com.  All proceeds will be split equally between the two groups.

            Have a great Saturday, everyone and remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo (thank you for longtime friend Patty Donnelly for use of the photo of her new tattoo)