My Inspiration: ACTivist Parents

[Re-posted from original blog post dated Jul. 2, 2012]

I have been traveling across the country this last year speaking at conferences to parents on ways they can take the experience of parenting a child with autism and view it as an opportunity to learn about themselves, find opportunity through disability, and become ACTivists in the process (I label all parents who make the world a better place for someone with autism as an ACTivist).
My speech is called “Waiting For Wyatt: A Journey Through Autism To Empowerment”. I meet many parents who exemplify this philosophy, and recently met a mom at the AutismOne/Generation Rescue Conference in Chicago named Gabrielle Kaplan-Meyer, who is using the experience of cooking healthy foods to connect with children on the autism spectrum.
I want to thank Gabrielle for calling me her inspiration, and let her know that SHE inspires me in return! I am happy to share her blog post below:

by Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Last month, I had the inspiring experience of participating and presenting at the AutismOne/Generation Rescue Conference in Chicago. I was only able to be there for two of the five days of the full conference, but in the time that I was present, I was able to connect with many other parents, attend informative, inspiring sessions and visit the many vendors whose products I hadn’t been familiar with before the conference, I gained so many new resources for my son George’s healing journey.

There were so many sessions to choose from, that I used my intuition to guide me to what I needed to hear. Two sessions that stood out for me were with Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson and with Virginia Breen and Elizabeth Bonker.

Nancy is a mom of a son on the spectrum and is the Executive Director of ACT Today. The essence of her talk was about becoming an activist parent and she shared the steps that lead her to shift from a place of despair and victimization to a place of empowerment and hope. Virginia and Elizabeth are a truly amazing mother daughter team and have recently completed a book. Elizabeth is fourteen; she has autism and has been on a healing journey for many years. She is currently nonverbal but reads, writes and communicates with the world around her and is now in a gifted program at school. Her poetry is unbelievably beautiful and expressive.

For me, these two sessions reaffirmed where I am in my son’s healing journey and gave me great hope for what lies ahead. One’s of Nancy’s key points is to “run your own race” and not compare your child’s progress to any others’ recovery. Our children’s healing is complex and highly individual for each child and I’ve made the mistake in past years of looking at other children and wishing we were farther along in helping my son become more organized and able to communicate. But the energy at this conference was sophisticated and empathetic; what I heard from both physicians, therapists and parents is that each child given an autism diagnosis has a unique healing journey and this message brought me back to a place of acceptance for where we are and gratitude for the amazing healing that has taken place for my son already.
There is no one size fits all solution and so hearing Nancy’s reminder to “run my own race” really affirmed that though my son’s progress may be going slower than other children, it does not help to compare him. I needed to be reminded of that message. And Virginia and Elizabeth’s message that every child who is nonverbal is “in there” gave me so much hope; we are planning to connect with Elizabeth’s teacher and see how her program could help our boy learn to communicate through writing.In the mean time, as I learn to surrender expectations and stay present for the healing journey in my home, amazing miracles happen all of the time.

This week, George took a 5-day Lose The Training Wheels Camp and learned to ride a bike on his own. Watching him achieve this milestone has also been a breathtaking metaphor for all that he will be able to do in time, as we support him in his own race.

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