Wake Up Calls A woman with significant ID and autism in central PA was charged with two felonies last week due to her behavior during a three hour wait in a hospital emergency room while in a mental health crisis. We can't let her be punished for her disability. M. called because he’s had an open legal case for years, and lost all his savings ($23,000) to lawyers who failed to effectively represent him. M. felt despondent, anxious, and is active with crisis services. We helped him document issues, fire lawyers, and get a public defender to have a fair day in court. Now M. feels supported and hopeful. Kids with disabilities tell trusted adults about being called hateful names, being left out, physically hurt, feeling depressed, and sometimes even suicidal. We respond with homeroom talks about hidden disabilities where nearly every kid eventually volunteers a worry they have, or talks about their own difference. We show up on very short notice to put a stop to bullying. A local mom knows her toddler is not reaching key milestones. He is way behind in speaking and motor skills. She calls around for an eval, and is told she has to wait up to a year before being seen. This happens to hundreds of families! We initiated training for Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner students, the first of whom graduate this spring! A friend of ours' son is non speaking. As a child he was asked to leave a general store because he bounced a ball “too hard.” Then a church acquaintance asked his family to keep him in the “infant crying room” instead of the sanctuary. When he was a teenager, a relative asked if he could stay home at Christmas because she was worried about him being around her fragile antiques. Parents work exhaustively seeking the best medical care, services, and healthy, fun activities. Many have crates of records - IEPs, psych evals, documentation and helpful articles, covering a lifetime of love and care. When a disability-based arrest and detainment occurs, people are suddenly ripped out of the family “fabric”; the loss is devastating for all. We facilitate the nation's first support group for family members of incarcerated people with disabilities. We share grief, intense fears and worries, loneliness, and coping skills. Members link to others who uniquely understand for “offline” chats and mutual uplifting calls or texts to get each other through the week. We visit lots of places - malls, holiday events, health fairs, emergency service summits - and meet lots of people. Sometimes these are "fluffy events" - like the Easter Bunny visit. Rest assured, once we let people know we help with lots of issues - "fluffy" gets serious real fast! This past weekend we answered help requests for: neurology referrals, legal help, genetics counseling, and school concerns. Too often, teens and children with symptoms of autism wind up in the criminal justice system, and things can escalate quickly. Law enforcement and the courts can mistake autistic behavior and communication as defiant, even antisocial. We are exploring a model of a new juvenile court with the judge who launched it in her state way out west. The specialized court is designed to identify and help autistic youth who find themselves in trouble. We are frequently contacted by autistic adults from across the lifespan wanting to develop friendships. We connect them with our support groups that offer many opportunities for social interaction with others on the spectrum. We also advise them regarding other possible resources and provide personalized ideas that may help expand their horizons. Nothing is impossible in terms of friendships for people with autism. You can help us support them in their quest to develop meaningful relationships. "Volunteering is not about giving back; it's about being a part of something larger than yourself. It's about learning that you are not alone, that you are a part of a community that is greater than the sum of its parts." - David Pitonyak Supporting non-disability volunteer events opens up new social opportunities for people with and without disabilities as contributors working together. New opportunities to expand your world are on the horizon! This past weekend, an army of volunteers raised funds to help meet our mission. Another army will run or walk on our behalf over the next couple of weeks. We may often feel alone in the day to day, heads down, figuratively with our noses to the grindstone. Autism acceptance and support is around us even though society isn't always aligned. Supports run the gamut of family members, adults on the spectrum, and those who are simply driven to make society accessible and inclusive. Help keep the momentum going. Autism Connection answers approximately 280 help requests every month, reaches 19,000 families and professionals through emails and social media. You can help us continue our mission as a lifeline and hub for families, adults and communities.