This past month was Autism Awareness month and as the disease is personal to our family and friends, I was glad to see the efforts of national organizations like Autism Speaks and many local support groups across the country push to educate the public on this issue. Back when Andrew was diagnosed, no one had really heard about autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In fact, I had to seek out information about Asperger’s syndrome on the internet to really piece together what the diagnosis would mean. Over a decade later, the CDC estimates that 1 in 50 children has an ASD. With those statistics, it is critical for organizations like Autism Pensacola in my Florida hometown to get out front and provide information about the disease.
This week Autism Pensacola has partnered with the University of West Florida to host a regional conference in the beautiful city of Pensacola. Flying High with Autism is bringing in speakers like Dr. Temple Grandin and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to discuss ASD research and therapy and to provide a forum for sharing the challenges and triumphs of individuals and families living with the diagnosis.
Andrew, who is now 22, understands his challenges and struggles on a daily basis to calculate his words and actions. He has learned how to communicate with others in a way that we take for granted. After helping him navigate through the brutal (under any circumstances) teen years with this condition, we know just how important awareness is not just for those diagnosed but for those who interact with them.
My incredibly talented friend Evelyn Savage, who is responsible for many of the gorgeous photographs on this blog, is not only a photographer but also an amazing, supportive and brave mother of a child with autism. Her son Laws was diagnosed 6 years ago with an ASD. She has redefined her role as a mother and has devoted her life to giving him the unconditional love, supporting environment and tools he needs to get through every day. You can check out her raw and honest account of raising a child with autism here: A Little Boy Blue (and his hero sister, too).
So it is only fitting that this blog celebrates Andrew, Pensacola and Evelyn. Thank you Andrew for blessing us with your persevering spirit, your kind heart and all the ways you make us smile . Thank you to our friends in Pensacola for caring enough to promote this cause very dear to us and for helping Andrew find his way into adulthood. And thank you Evelyn for capturing in photos what words can’t describe.