The Autism Blog

Autism Supports This Past Legislative Session – Children & Youth

This is the first of two-part series about how inclusion and support for autistic individuals and their families fared in Olympia this past legislative session. Part 1 addresses support for children and youth, while Part 2 will provide an overview of support and inclusion for adults in our state.

So, how did we come out of Washington’s 2022 legislative session? Are we closer to being an inclusive state with ready, equitable access to appropriate supports? 

Not quite. Read full post »

June’s Journey with Autism: A Parent’s Perspective

This blog recaps an interview with Estrella Gamao, a loving mom to a young 27-year-old with autism, June. Estrella shares her journey around raising June in the Philippines, her experiences learning about autism and their move to Seattle highlighting the one constant – her unconditional love and acceptance of her daughter for exactly who she is. 

  1. Can you describe your autism journey with June?

We have had a challenging journey with June, but June has been and will always be our first priority. We lived in the Philippines, and as her parents, we were involved in every school activity and family support group that was offered. We were 100% committed to her and her success.

June was diagnosed with autism when she was a one-and-a-half-year-old. We had never heard of autism before. I had heard that sometimes siblings develop differently and that June might just be late in development. Our first daughter was talking when she was one year old and playing with a toy basketball, but June only mumbled ‘mama’. She would walk over the edge of stairs with no fear. I asked several doctors ‘Why is my daughter so different?’ I first heard about autism from our pediatrician. Eventually, I was recommended to Dr. Alexis Reyes at the Makati Medical Center in the Philippines. After joining a six-month-long waitlist, we got a call three months later when they had a last-minute cancellation. Dr. Alexis Reyes is the one who diagnosed June.

In September of 2009, I moved from the Philippines to the United States with our eldest daughter. My husband and June came in 2012. While I was away, June had two caregivers stay with her and I supported June from afar with ongoing Skype calls. Even though we called every day, we could tell June was sad and hurt that we went without her, but I needed to go to establish our lives and find a new job.

  1. What are some of June’s greatest talents or qualities? What are you most proud of about June and her growth?

A birthday sign that June made for her father.

June’s greatest talents are in art, painting and cooking. She is great at preparing food like mac and cheese and sweet treats. June is very sweet and is never violent. She loves cooking, watching tv and is overall very content.

June is thoughtful and generous and prepares food and coffee for her father every morning before he goes to work. She likes to make food and share extras with him. She will buy cake and candles one week ahead of her families’ birthdays and celebrations. Recently, she cut out magazine pages and created a ‘Happy Birthday Papa’ sign for her father. She is very nice and sweet to her family. She is also helpful and resourceful and lets me know if something in the house is broken. She will find replacement appliances online and ask for the credit card to purchase a new one.

We are a very lucky family and are very proud of June. She is the main reason why our whole family moved to the US. We moved here because she is our priority (and also because air conditioning is very expensive in the Philippines and she doesn’t like to be hot!).

  1. What does Autism Acceptance mean to you?

 

June and her father going grocery shopping.

 At first, accepting June’s autism was difficult for me. In the beginning, I reached out to a lot of doctors to ask for several opinions. We used to take June to the mega mall in the Philippines and June would be uncomfortable and start yelling in the parking lot. We talked with a doctor and discussed it at a parent support group, and learned that June might feel alone in a big open space. Others suggested ways we could comfort her. We started to massage her back and hug her and found that her yelling stopped when we were able to make her feel safe. 

Gradually, I was able to accept my daughter and understand her in a new way.

 

 

 

  1. How can our community show autism acceptance?

 Lots of people show acceptance by showing understanding for our family. We feel accepted when people recognize that June is autistic and say ‘no problem.’ People can also show autism acceptance by being accommodating while in public. There was a time at Panda Express when June was excited to get her food, and the man in the line was not accommodating and did not allow us to cut in line. This was a learning opportunity for us. We convinced June to wait her turn, but I believe we still need to bring both awareness and acceptance to autism, because not everyone knows about it or how a small gesture, like allowing us to cut in line, can make a big difference.

I used to feel embarrassed, but now I am numb to it. When people are accommodating, respectful and show small acts of kindness it melts my heart.

 How has the Alyssa Burnett Center (ABC) helped shape June as a person? What does the ABC mean to you?

 The ABC is a family for June. June says that the ABC is a home and she sings joyful lyrics about coming to the center when she wakes up for class. She is ready two hours early if she knows she has class. She is always happy and excited to come to the center. She believes in authority and can follow instructions. We hope she can continue to articulate more with her voice as she joins social classes at the ABC. Her favorite classes are . Her art skills have really improved. June likes fast music and uses Youtube to find her favorite songs to dance to. We also add in grocery runs on days when we come to the ABC and June has a routine for when she goes to QFC, Safeway, Walmart and her favorite, Red Robin.

We consider the ABC a family and friend to us. When Tammy interviewed us in 2015, we knew right away that the ABC was the right place for June. We knew that June was in the right hands and would be taken care of.

 What do you hope for the future?

June and ABC Director, Tammy Mitchel.

 I hope that the ABC is always there for June. I want my daughter to be happy all the time throughout her life and always have support from the center. That’s all I can ask for. I also hope to find a swimming pool for June. She loves to swim. We also got her passport and hope to do some traveling. We will likely go to New Jersey to visit June’s sister, and June is currently trying to convince us to go to Las .

I also have a prayer, not only for June, but for every adult who has a disability in Washington. I pray that in the future, Seattle Children’s and ABC will be able to expand their programming to offer creative employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.  By providing unique opportunities for adults to showcase their talents through selling art, the ABC could further enrich and empower their adults. For me as a parent, I would feel comfortable and at peace knowing that our June is taken care of.

Autism Gratitude Project

In celebration of Autism Acceptance Month, the Seattle Children’s Autism Blog shares a story about a mother of twin daughters who both have autism and who shows her gratitude for the Seattle Children’s Autism Center by conducting an annual Autism Gratitude Project

Earlier this year, my dear friend, Belma Slatina, came to me with the idea of conducting a toy drive for autism. Belma Slatina knows the journey I have been on with my twin daughters, Aliya and Kira, who were diagnosed with autism five years ago, and she has other close friends whose children have autism. It is because of her connection to autism and the fact that she continues to look for new ways to give back to the community through her foundation, the Slatina Foundation, that she decided to do so through a donation drive for autism. Read full post »

Conversations About Autism – Early Communication

Please join us for Early Communication: how to communicate with your child with Autism as we continue with our new video series, Conversations About Autism, which replaced our Autism 200 lectures.  

 Conversations About Autism is a series of 60-minute live-streamed sessions created for providers and caregivers of children with autism who wish to better understand the autism spectrum disorder. In this session we will have a conversation about early communication. This is a great conversation to listen to if you have a loved one with autism who is non-speaking or struggles with verbal communication. Our conversations will include a speech language pathologist, a parent with a child with autism as well as a non-speaking adult with autism. I hope you can join us and be a part of that conversation.  Read full post »

Surviving to Thriving: A Self-Advocate’s View

We present guest author John Wennberg’s blog From Surviving to Thriving: What Autism Acceptance Means to a Self-Advocate in celebration of Autism Month.

What does autism acceptance mean to me? For me, it means finally accepting my diagnosis at the age of 40. It also means to stop masking (the act of trying to hide one’s autistic characteristics), because masking is denying.

The first time I heard the word ‘masking’ was when I was watching an Autism 200 Series video and I realized I was doing it, but I didn’t know what it is. Masking is a strategy that autistic people use for learning neurotypical behaviors and doing our best to copy them in social settings. I did it as a kid because I wanted to fit in with everybody, but now I know there’s a name. I was an honor student, so I was known for getting my work done perfectly and on time. I was involved in many school activities and sports, and I got my Letterman’s jacket. I loved choir, but I did these activities to fit in. Read full post »

RISE at the Alyssa Burnett Center

In celebration of Autism Month we present this blog and video by the the students of the Influence and Inspire class at the Alyssa Burnett Center.

 

“The ABC is as unique and special as I am. 

When I am at the ABC, I agree to RISE

 

The Alyssa Burnett Center (ABC) is special because it’s a place where everyone can be included. RISE stands for Respect, Include, Support, and Enjoy and it is our student code of conduct made by the students of the leadership class. RISE is important at the ABC because it shows how everyone is welcome no matter who you are, as long as we respect, include, and support one another so we can all enjoy our time together.  Everyone is unique and can be themselves here and that’s what makes it a special place. The ABC is special to us because we get to experience all sorts of classes where we learn, grow, connect, socialize, and have fun.  Here are some things to know about RISE.

 

R is for Respect. I will respect one another. 

I will respect one another’s privacy

I will respect one another’s differences

I will respect one another with the words I use.”

 

We respect one another when we listen to each other. Some people may like to participate in different ways and that is okay. We respect each other’s boundaries and differences. For example, if someone doesn’t want to participate, instead of forcing them, we can respect others’ choices and decisions. People have their own ways to express their enthusiasm and engage in activities and that is a good thing. Respect is important because we need to take time to understand each other and treat others the way they want and need to be treated.

 

I is for Include. I will include one another 

All are welcome!” 

 

Everyone who is a part of the ABC is what makes the ABC special. Sometimes classes can be really big but we do our best to include everyone. The ways we do this are by giving everyone a turn, reaching out to others who haven’t spoken up, and being open to new ideas from our friends. Also, in order to include others, we make sure the environment is safe and accessible for everyone. If students need larger text, closed captions, ASL, noise-canceling headphones, or any other accommodations, we make sure they are included so we can all have a good time together and no one is left out. Another way we are doing our best to include is by our new expansion with more classrooms and our new elevator! Inclusion is important because we want everyone to feel welcome.

 

S is for Support. I will support one another. 

I will help one another. 

I will be there for one another. 

I will cheer up and cheer on one another.” 

 

One way we show support is by helping one another. Sometimes it might be a new student or other times it might be a classmate who needs a helping hand. For example, we use ASL to communicate with our nonspeaking friends. When friends are about to share their work or give a performance, we encourage them. If someone is nervous, we give them words of wisdom and after they share we give them applause. Another way we can be supportive is by welcoming new students into the fun. Simply being kind is a way we can be supportive. We all have our ups and downs and when we give each other space and privacy we can support each other. We can be there to comfort those who need it and support them through listening. Each situation is different and everyone needs support in different ways. Support is important because we help those in need and when we are all supported we can work together and conquer hard things.

 

E is for Enjoy. I will enjoy our time together!”

 

At the ABC we get to do so many fun things. We play games, make art, laugh together, and share conversations. We get to make new friends, best friends, and special memories. We get to explore new classes, meet new people and staff, and discover things we’ve never known about. It feels like a big adventure. It’s important to enjoy our time together because it makes us all happy, joyful, and builds our identity and character in life. We are one big community and this is how we RISE at ABC.

 

Autism Month – A Time for Reflection, Acceptance and Inclusion

Once again, it is April 1st, which marks the beginning of Autism Acceptance Month, also referred to as World Autism Month and Autism Action Month. Every day we celebrate the unique differences and perspectives of each autistic individual, and this month we want to highlight the many different experiences and perspectives of the autism community.   

There are many ways this month is recognized, from those who are working to shift the conversation away from awareness, which is considered stigmatizing by some, and onto acceptance (Acceptance is an Action: ASAN Statement on 10th Anniversary of AAM – Autistic Self Advocacy Network (autisticadvocacy.org); Autism Acceptance Month | Autism Society) to those who advocate for the needs of severely affected individuals (National Council On Severe Autism)  to those who are focused on all people with autism reaching their full potential (World Autism Month | Autism Speaks).

Here at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, we hold space for the varied truths and narratives that co-exist in the world of autism and we believe that every person with autism has the right to thrive: to be accepted, included, celebrated and to live their best life. Some individuals with autism need high levels of support in their daily lives, while others are able to reach their goals without special education or other supports. And many others fall somewhere in between—benefitting from support in some areas and independence in others. All deserve not just awareness of their differences, but true acceptance and inclusion. This requires a shift for all of us—not just in our healthcare and education systems to provide needed supports and therapies to autistic individuals—in our society as a whole to broaden our appreciation of diverse lived experiences and recognition of the value of neurodiversity.

This month, we will feature a series of blogs from both the Seattle Children’s Autism Center and the Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center. Our goal is to share a range of perspectives including autistic individuals, parents of individuals with autism, and providers who work with people with autism. Some will address the highs, such as the beauty in the individual characteristics and talents that make up autistic people, and some will portray the lows, such as what happens when families can no longer safely manage challenging behaviors at home. We will also share resources on social media, including those available in Spanish, that readers may find helpful.

We hope that seeing different perspectives this month will allow you to challenge your own views and the views of those around you. What can you and your community do to accept people with autism who may act, think, and feel differently than you do? How can you accept and adapt to those you encounter, rather than expecting they will adapt to what makes you comfortable? How can you encourage autistic individuals to be their best most authentic selves and support society in celebrating each person as they are? As a society, we have come a long way since the days when individuals with disabilities were hidden from view, but there is still much to be done before people with autism and other developmental disabilities will be fully accepted and included. At Seattle Children’s Autism Center, we are up for this challenge and will continue to dedicate ourselves to this work. We hope you will join us on our journey of acceptance and inclusion.

 

How To Help My Kid Make Progress

Please join us for How To Help My Kid Make Progress as we continue with our new video series, Conversations About Autism, which replaced our Autism 200 lectures. 

Conversations About Autism is a series of 60-minute live-streamed sessions created for providers and caregivers of children with autism who wish to better understand the autism spectrum disorder. In this session we will have a conversation about what parents can do to support their child’s development with a local autism expert, a parent with a child with autism as well as a non-speaking adult with autism. I hope you can join us and be a part of that conversation.

 

Read full post »

Celebrating Black Futures Month

In celebration of Black Futures Month, the Autism Center welcomes guest author Vanessa Allmon, EDI Program Manager. Vanessa works to lead the antiracist and health equity work for our department. Read full post »

Conversations About Autism – First Steps After a Diagnosis

Please join us for First Steps After an Autism Diagnosis as we continue with our new video series, Conversations About Autism, which replaced our Autism 200 lectures.

Conversations About Autism is a series of 60-minute live-streamed sessions created for providers and caregivers of children with autism who wish to better understand the autism spectrum disorder. In this session we will have three local experts discuss what to do after an autism diagnosis.

Watch Online

You can live-stream classes on YouTube on Seattle Children’s YouTube page or on Facebook Live on Seattle Children’s Facebook page. 

Date: February 17, 2022
Time: 7-8 p.m. Pacific Time

View Past Lectures

Live-streamed sessions are recorded and posted on our YouTube channel for future viewing for those interested in the series.

View past lectures from 2017 – 2021 or view all past Conversations About Autism sessions on the Conversations About Autism Series YouTube Playlist