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April 2017

Autism, Friendship and Relationships

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Inside every autistic person there are the same general needs for connection and interaction that a typical person has. We’re all human and we want to have great relationships. I think that’s something that most people can agree on.

 

Wanting friends is something that comes naturally to everyone, including those of us on the spectrum. But in my personal experiences (of course people with autism all experience different things in life), friends are few and far between, and friendship can be very difficult.

 

I didn’t really understand friendship the way others did. I shared activities with people, but it often didn’t connect to me that it matters so much which people I was sharing those activities with. There has always been a missing element for me when it comes to friendship and friendly relationships.

 

Observing people around me, I know I am missing how to make friends. I would have liked someone to teach me when I was younger, but we can’t learn it from just anyone who knows how to make a friend. People with autism — myself specifically — need someone who has a special insight, with an in-depth view of where we are and can explain the importance of friendship in a way we can grasp it.

 

Autism is not a reason to avoid having relationships. But it needs to be worked on, and the biggest part of friendship is trust.

 

Thanks, as always, for reading.

— Paul

The Autistic Swim Team that Proved Everyone Wrong

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This week on the blog, I’m sharing information on an Autism Awareness Month event. Avondale House is proud to host a free screening of the award-winning new documentary film Swim Team, which is an inspiring look at the rise of a competitive swim team of teens on the autism spectrum. 

 

Following three teammates on the cusp of adulthood, when government services become scarce, Swim Team is a portrait of diverse American families grappling with the problem of “aging out.” Over the course of a year, the film explores the overwhelming struggles they face and the triumphs they achieve as they strive for independence, inclusion and a life that feels winning.

 

The movie, directed by Lara Stolman, who has a 10-year-old son with autism, focuses on Mike and other members of the Jersey Hammerheads swim team, which was formed to cater to teens on the spectrum.

 

Swim Team was most recently screened in Austin at SXSW; and now they’re excited to bring the experience to the Houston audience. If you’re interested, you can learn more about Swim Team at the film’s webpageThe movie has been featured in the press in recent months, including articles in the New York Post, Columbia College Today and the Hollywood Reporter.

 

Avondale House will be screening this film on Friday, April 14 at 6:00pm at the Children’s Museum of Houston. While the event is free and open to the public, seating is limited so attendees must please RSVP here.

 

If you’re interested in sharing the word, feel more than free to pass along this information. If you would also like to promote the event on social media, you can contact Alyssa Purcell, Development Coordinator at Avondale House at alyssap@avonalehouse.org for more information. 

 

More info here: Swim Team Film Screening

My Thoughts on Autism Awareness Month

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Autism awareness month can be challenging for many of us who are on the spectrum. A large amount of it centers on non-autistic people talking about what to do about us, and a large amount of the publicity is created and focused around Autism Speaks and their “light it up blue” initiative. And both the organization and the initiative itself can be seen as controversial for reasons that aren’t really as important as the effect.

 

For many of us, autism awareness month is a period of time where we hear people talk about an “epidemic” that needs solving. We hear people who know almost nothing about what it means to live as an autistic, talking about how important it is to raise “awareness.” But awareness doesn’t even begin to offer people clues about realistic things that can be done to improve the situation. And we all know that when the month ends, most of these individuals will spare hardly a thought about autism for another year.

 

On the other side, however, autism awareness month has resulted in millions of dollars being raised toward research into both therapeutic and biomedical approaches to autism that have changed the lives of thousands, if not millions, of individuals for the better. The “light it up blue” initiative both paints autism as “something that mainly affects boys,” leaving women struggling on the spectrum to feel left out and “not as important” and also reminds millions that autism is something affecting all of us, as monuments around the world turn blue for a day or an entire month.

 

Autism awareness month, like many things, is a mixed blessing. We don’t suffer from autism one month out of the year, and our struggles aren’t improved by the simple fact of people knowing about us or giving money to research. We’re real people, living in the real world, trying to get by day to day.

 

World autism day gives us the chance to have a voice. News organizations are willing to have us on to talk about it. Right now “autism awareness” largely means “awareness that it exists.” We have the chance to change that into “awareness of who we are” and I’m hoping this year and the coming years we’ll see more and more autistic voices welcomed to the conversation that we have each year about what autism is, and what can be done about making people’s lives better.

 

Thanks again for reading.

— Paul