“SANTA! OH MY GOD! SANTA’S COMING! I KNOW HIM! I KNOW HIM!”
Buddy the Elf, Elf
But this year was different. This year, there was a “Sensory Santa” program intent on providing spectrum kids an anxiety-free visit with Santa. There were special elves there from SPAA to help any kids that were anxious, and there was a table where they could write a letter to Santa, and a table where they could create their own ornament.
Kaitlyn took advantage of both table, and Allison helped her write her letter, and Sarah helped her with her ornament. After completing her ornament, it was time for the visit with Santa. Kaitlyn was pretty apprehensive at first, and Amber had to escort her up to his seat, but she stood on her own as he checked her list; when he was done, he asked if there was anything else, and Kaitlyn replied, “no thank you.” (I guess a list 25 items strong is plenty for her.)
Kaitlyn even had her picture made with Santa, even though it took a few takes to get it just right. Overall, I would say that today was an enormous success. I am really appreciative to the SPAA elves for giving up part of their Saturday morning to help at an event like this. Just when I think they have exhausted ways to amaze me, they outdo themselves.
“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”
Buddy the Elf, Elf
Nope, that is not a type-o.
Tonight, I was asked to speak to Students Promoting Autism Awareness (SPAA), the student group on campus at FSU dedicated to raising autism awareness on campus. Through Miracle Sports, I had been fortunate to interact with many of the members, and Kaitlyn’s #1 buddy at Miracle is the SPAA President. I had the good fortune to attend another SPAA meeting earlier this year, but this is the first time I had gotten to speak to the group.
The topic for tonight was a parent’s perspective on autism and Asperger’s. Basically, I shared our experience from day one. I shared the frustrations and the victories we have had in our dealings with the school district, and was open and honest about the challenges we face every day with Kaitlyn.
What I enjoyed most is taking questions from the group. To me, I felt it would be more effective and informative to have the group ask things they were interested in knowing, rather than just hear me share our experiences. And there were a lot of great questions. To be able to answer the questions and possibly further pique the interest of the members was amazing. I invited the members to spend some time with us and with Kaitlyn if they wanted to, just so they could really get that “hands-on” experience.
I am really impressed, though, about the level of enthusiasm from the group. These students get it. I cannot thank them enough for what they do on campus and throughout the community. They have a number of events that they participate in each year, and a good number of the members volunteer at Miracle. I continue to be excited about the future because of these students; if they continue to educate themselves and the community, and be advocates for autism awareness, people like us and like Kaitlyn are the real winners. I hope to be invited back sometime, if even just to sit in on their meeting and marvel at what they are planning and what they have accomplished; I know Kaitlyn would love to join me sometime as well, especially since she will get to see her buddy.
I hope that SPAA continues to grow in enthusiastic membership. Just as we can never have too many volunteers at Miracle, there can never be too many advocates for individuals with autism.
Tonight I was invited by Ryan to join him at a meeting at FSU of the Students Promoting Autism Awareness (SPAA), and I left there blown away by these young people. SPAA is a group of college students dedicated to autism awareness, and you can learn more about them here.
I learned tonight that SPAA continually holds functions and events in the name of autism awareness, and the members are always looking for ways to be more involved. I would say a fair number of the members have no personal connection to autism other than wanting to make a difference. There is a diverse background of students, and a varying amount of majors represented, but mostly therapy-related fields; one of the members is a triple major…amazing.
Being able to attend their meeting tonight gave me renewed hope in the future of autism awareness. These students seem genuinely interested in getting and keeping autism spectrum disorders in the forefront of people’s minds, and I applaud them for that. They are available to work with families touched by autism, and do so free of charge (they get volunteer hours, so everybody wins). This is a group of very bright individuals with giant hearts, and I feel fortunate to have been able to attend their meeting. I would encourage more students to follow their lead and become involved, whether it be with autism awareness or something else. The difference these students will make after graduation and grad school is going to be tremendous, and I hope to be able to arrange for one or more members to come work with Kaitlyn.
It is nights like tonight that make me forget, at least for a little while, battles with the school district, or disappointment in our President, or sickness because of Florida’s governor. Nights like tonight reaffirm my belief that there is inherent good in people, you just have to know where to look.