Getting To Know Autism – Part 2

Author – Antonio Lockhart

Last month, we highlighted how a DSP became more familiar with Autism and how that affected them as a person. This month, as a follow-up, we decided to delve a bit deeper and interview the parent of a child who was on the spectrum. Daybreak’s own Quality Assurance assistant Tashana M. let us in on her personal experiences with raising a daughter who happens to be on the Autism spectrum.

“Autism Speaks,” an advocacy group, defines Autism as a developmental disorder characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. Among other things, this means Autism can be both difficult to diagnose and hard to spot. During the interview, Tashana described how her daughter’s behavior suddenly changed around 15 months by stating, “I noticed a change in her behavior as she out of the blue stopped responding to me calling her name. I began to express to my family that I was noticing something wrong with her but they did not see the issue as well. I inquired with her doctor about the issues and she was diagnosed.”

When her daughter was first diagnosed, having no prior experience with the disability, Tashana was understandably scared. She did not want to live in a world where there was a possibility she did not have the means to take care of her own daughter. So Tashana did everything she could to educate herself on Autism Spectrum Disorder and began to research, read helpful materials, and receive advice from those with similar experiences. At the time, being a pharmacists assistant, Tashana saw her path more highlighted than ever before and decided to pursue a career in social work with the understanding that she would be able to better serve the needs of her daughter.

Today Tashana describes her situation with confidence and assuredness that she is doing everything she can to improve her daughters life. She knows that since she is properly preparing herself and her daughter for the future her daughter will be able to live as independent and fulfilling a life as possible. She did not let the fear associated with the diagnosis stop her which sets an example to her daughter. I was amazed by the resilience she showed even in our short interview. It was clear she had evolved from the scared person unfamiliar with the diagnosis of Autism to a mother ready to clear a golden path onto the world for her child. She is willing to learn as much as she is willing to teach and share. She brings that dedication to Daybreak on a daily basis.

Tashana describes that getting her daughter an IPAD has really improved her ability to engage in learning activities and she feels it can be a great tool for anyone with communication issues. I asked her if she had seen/experienced anything at Daybreak that she was able to take back home and use to assist her daughter and she mentioned that she is constantly watching staff and it influences her to try different activities with her daughter which is tremendously helpful. Lastly, I asked her which form of therapy had been the most helpful and she mentioned ABA therapy. She described the therapy as very “hands-on” and mentioned how her daughter seems to take to it easily.

I ended my interview with a question asking,’ How she would explain autism to others?, and she responded with,” Autism is not necessarily a bad thing, I know I can never walk in her shoes but I can learn with her and learn from her experiences. She repeated that in the beginning she was scared however today she has no doubt in her mind that her daughter will be fine. She finished our interview by stating,” I want the best for her and that will never change.” Just another proof and testament to the fact that a mother’s love is a blessing that never ends.

Literacy: An Undeniable Essential

Author – Lillian Lewis

“Reading is fundamental.”  We’ve all heard this statement many times over, haven’t we? Well, I am sure we can all agree that reading is a very crucial part of our lives. We read for everything- shopping, cooking, and traveling, to name a few. We even read when watching television. There isn’t a day that goes by where we are not inundated with words and things that want and/or need to be read. Therefore, the assertion that reading is fundamental is quite accurate because it encompasses basically all areas of our lives.

With this realization in mind, I recently thought of a way to promote the continued growth of literacy here at Daybreak; why not start our own personal library? And with that thought, came action. I encouraged staff members and individuals alike to bring in any new or gently used books they would like to contribute to the building of our own library at the program. Many thought it was a great idea and we have received tangible support from parents as well as staff. When going through our books and magazines at home, I am sure we all come across some that we no longer want or need. Instead of tossing them or leaving them there to gather dust, why not donate them to a great cause? Ours!

Since its establishment, our mini library has drawn attention and encouragement from all who have seen it. The initiative even sparked a writing event here at the Woodlawn location, as one of the staff members who donated books thought of it as we reviewed the many selections she brought in to give. “We should have a poetry slam,” said Tatiana (a direct support professional from the Woodlawn location). She was inspired as we went through all the wonderful books that various people donated, ranging from short paperbacks to chapter books.

The need for literacy is very real and very important. As young adults aspiring to be more independent, the ability for our individuals to read and write is essential to that process. During a recent literacy lesson at program, some groups had a discussion about many of the different things people would need to read on a daily basis to accomplish an array of tasks- such as taking the correct bus/train to get to their destination, cooking foods properly & with the right ingredients, knowing the difference between beauty products & cleaning supplies, filling out forms, checking/replying to messages on social media and the list goes on.

Literacy also expands the mind, allowing us to explore different cultures, stories, and ideas. Reading can help us to stay safe by warning us about potential danger, keep us up-to-date with things happening in our communities/country, increase our knowledge about a vast number of topics and keep us entertained by immersing us into a fictional world of epic proportions. It is essential to our lives in one way or another. Therefore, we are excited to keep this initiative going and we need your help!  We welcome any books, magazines, educational posters, and flashcards that you would like to donate so that our library can keep growing and impacting their lives in a meaningful way. Let’s work together to help our individuals navigate this big world of words and hopefully develop a love of reading along the way. 

Perfect Poetry Slam

Author – Tatiana Spence 

For the first time in Daybreak history; A long and highly anticipated Poetry slam took place at the end of May, closing out the month with a bang! Many people who receive services stunned the audience with their voice, words, and presence. Each person came up reading their poem with courage and also showing our community that we are here and capable of anything. I found myself taken in awe by the event which showcased writing from all over our Woodlawn location. This was a particularly special moment bringing our program together.

This day was beyond breathtaking. From the tambourine girl group, which consisted of Veronica V., Selena W, Ruth M., and Mary D., who did a rehearsed routine with the tambourines, to the spoken poets using gestures and charismatic voice tones, and finally to the visual and fine arts performance with Cara W and staff. Last but not least the certification ceremony where our performers were rewarded with certificates commending them on becoming official poets, and the award ceremony for finding the courage to present a piece of your puzzle.

This spoken poetry slam was the first of its kind hosted by staff. Staff and their groups succeeded at incorporating and integrating personalities portrayed through their poems. We saw different people use cartoon-like voices, sass, gestures, and others courageously making their way down the red carpet; to let their voices be heard. On May 31st, 2019, many of us discovered there was much untapped potential hidden and released on this very day.

Overall it was a sight to see, the program coming together as a community; and performing as one body. Everyone applauded one another and cheered each other on as they accepted their trophies, medals, and certificates; making them official poets. Let us continue to see what the staff have in store at Daybreak this summer!

Getting To Know Autism: A personal Story

Author – Enolissa Tyson DSP

As a young child I wasn’t really exposed to anyone who had Autism. I actually had my first interaction with someone who was autistic when I was around 14 years old. My mom’s friend has a granddaughter that was diagnosed with Autism. At the time I didn’t know that she was autistic, I only knew that she couldn’t talk and had trouble getting good grades in school. I remember she used to get upset when she was told “No”, and she would just scream. I asked her grandmother one day why she was unable to talk and she explained to me that she has Autism and because of her developmental disability it was one of the traits that she had. I was around her for about a month, and I was able to learn how she was able to communicate without speaking. After being around her, I was definitely interested in learning more about Autism and developmental disabilities.  

Autism is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. There are some repetitive behaviors that you see, such as little to no eye contact, rocking, delayed speech, and these are pointed out in order to identify someone with Autism. Having a child with Autism is not easy, and I’ve learned that from experience as well as being around someone that is Autistic as well. One of my closest friends’ daughters (My God Daughter) have Autism and her mother tells me all the time that its hard and there are times she doesn’t know what her daughter wants because she is unable to communicate well at the age of 3. Having a support system of family, friends and the community around to help makes things easier. This is where Autism Awareness comes into play. Autism awareness encourages us to take measures on how to raise awareness about people with Autism. We celebrate World Autism Day on April 2 each year. We need to continue to educate and build awareness about Autism, get involved and be a support system.