Thursday, May 30, 2019

Autism Changes our Path and Directs how We Can Help the Future

Tuesday I received an email inviting me to my oldest child's school. So often I forget to embrace the "typical" moments with my kids but since autism, I don't let one moment go by. Perhaps that is a gift from autism. I arrived at school not sure what to expect, as my daughter had only casually mentioned she was entering a contest. A contest. Knowing our family and our luck I wasn't so sure how the contest would go but I didn't have to work so no matter what the results, I'd be there.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association awarded our school a grant to help facilitate a contest that would grow their students through STEM work in their interdisciplinary studies as well as gifted and talented programs. This isn't my thing. I'm not STEM or STEAM and I certainly wasn't gifted or talented so I always enter these experiences not sure what exactly will follow. I was utterly shocked with the innovation that the children explored through their classes and it made someone like me excited to see science in motion and the opportunities of the future. 

I giggled with a favorite teacher of Simone's who suggested I visit her project. She and I have become close, first through my daughter, then through her daughter who visited me weekly while I watched her each week. There, in the center of the room, she stood. Her poster wasn't exceptional and as I squinted I could see very little of what she had to share but as I walked closer, she began to explain.

My daughter created a refrigerator that would have facial recognition to not only benefit those of us who have a few pounds to lose protecting us from ourselves but also providing protection for someone like her little sister who has been known to gorge herself on foods that were not safe for her. She does this at all hours of the day and night and after a few years all of us are exhausted, pulling her out of cabinets, down from shelves and out of the chill of the fridge and freezer. For us, her allergy is physical. She gets sick. She then becomes what we have graciously noted to be "babyzilla" BUT for other their reaction is not so mild. For other children, their parents lament the loss of their own offspring because they could not protect them from themselves. 

Perhaps our world is not yet ready for her design, perhaps some adult twice or three times her age is already working on this design but today, I learned that once again, autism is calling my family to grow, to reach, to climb those mountains that seemed to shadow our world and create darkness in the early years of my youngest child's life.

Today, I watched as my daughter beamed, with pride as she was selected as a winner of this contest that I had no idea about. Today, I learned my daughter worked for two months on this project, working on programming, researching technology and discovering a price point that she felt her product could be sold at to make it affordable (ish) for families. Today, I saw how autism, though its taken us into uncharted territory has the potential to push us to find who we were intended to be.

A huge shout out and thank you to the National Kitchen and Bath Association for giving my child an opportunity to shine. Each child, no matter what their gift has a talent and today I realized that my daughter's talent may be empathy and understanding that we are not only called to live our life but to make lives of others better. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to watch my daughter to celebrate her success and to imagine who she may become, all because autism changed our path.

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