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Unconditional Love & Everyday Advocacy: Lessons Learned from my Children with Autism

News

Mar

20

Susanna O'Brien
March 20, 2019
Today Parenting

I was going through life at 100 miles an hour, involved in everything as a student, from public school through college. Even as an educator for 34 years, I didn’t slow down, my focus just changed. The biggest change in my life would be the birth of my children, two beautiful boys, Matty and Daniel, now 20 and 25 years old. They changed my focus yet again, and any working mom will tell you that juggling motherhood and work is a challenge. But what would happen to me after their autism diagnosis would be the most life-changing, and for this I had to split myself into many people, wearing many different hats.

Children allow you to tap into a place in your heart where unconditional love lives. Once you find it and nurture it it grows like a beautiful garden. In order to fully develop it you must tend to it. Special needs children tap into a place that you first think you don’t have, you think it’s all been used up. But you dig deeper, and find the space for it to grow as well.

Children with autism are all unique, and so each parent and/or caregiver or teacher gets to know that individual with such depth, you sometimes feel like you are one person together, fused emotionally at times. With nonverbal children it becomes even more profound. You know what they want and need, sometimes sensing it from them with a small gesture or movement they may make. This newfound awareness stretches beyond special needs individuals into our world of relationships with family, friends and community members. It is a gift of understanding, one that has you slowing down to pay attention to your surroundings and the people in them.

When my husband and I decided that Matty needed more care than we could give him, we looked for residential programs that showed us that unconditional love. The people of Anderson Center of Autism have shown us that. Matty’s house manager Kristen, who has been with Matty from his start at Anderson, is his second mother, his house mom. She has always taken the time to understand him, she knows what he wants and needs, she is one with him. She has that deep heart one needs to make Matty feel safe and secure. When Matty developed Epilepsy 2 years ago, she travelled with us numerous times to hospitals, even staying through the night. Matty is a 20 year old young man who will be moving to a forever home, a group home after June of 2020, when he ages out out his pediatric program. I know he will be with new, extraordinary people. People who know unconditional love, and find it an honor to work with our special needs loved ones.

It is now my honor to go on to the next phase of my life, after retiring from teaching. I am an autism advocate, a gift my children have given me. But more important, an everyday advocate, who doesn’t move at 100 miles an hour anymore, I can stop and smell the flowers, and share them with those around me.

I still wear many other hats, but that’s another story……………...


Youth on the Go: March 10, 2019

News

Mar

08

March 8, 2019
DailyFreeman.com

Abby Edwards, a teenager from East Moriches, N.Y., is expanding a successful “Pajama Day” fundraiser initiative, originally based on Long Island, to the Hudson Valley region.
The event, which has raised over $6,500 for Anderson Center for Autism over the past few years, is scheduled this year for Friday, April 12.
Edwards developed the concept in honor of her brother, a resident at the center. Since the event’s inception, Edwards has secured the participation of hundreds of students, teachers and staff who donate funds for the right to wear pajamas to school in honor of autism awareness.

This year, Edwards is working to secure the participation of student-run clubs from Hudson Valley school districts to increase its impact. Henry H. Wells Middle School in Brewster and the Anderson Centerhave signed on as participants. Edwards is awaiting formal approvals from others in the region. New participants will be joined by East Quogue Elementary School, East Moriches Middle School, East Moriches Elementary School and Starbright Children’s Center in the effort to raise money and heighten awareness.
“My brother Riley is a full-time resident at Anderson Center for Autism, and I wanted to do something to help the organization that has made such an impact on his life. Beyond that, I want people to understand what autism is, and how people’s lives are touched,” Edwards said in a press released. “I have used a Power-Point presentation to help educate people about the event. Every person who wants to wear pajamas to school on Pajama Day donates $2, whether they are students, teachers, or staff. All of the funds go directly to Anderson Foundation for Autism in honor of my brother.”


For more information on the fundraiser or the Anderson Center, call (845) 889-9208 or visit andersoncenterforautism.org, where donations can be earmarked for this project by notating “Abby’s Pajama Day” in the "special instructions" section of the website.


Teenager sets out to raise money for Autism programs

News

Mar

07

March 7, 2019
HudsonValley360.com

STAATSBURG — Abby Edwards, a teenager from East Moriches, announced plans to expand a successful “Pajama Day” fundraiser initiative, originally based on Long Island, to the Hudson Valley region. The event, which has raised more than $6,500 for Anderson Center for Autism over the past few years, is scheduled this year for April 12. 

Edwards developed the concept in honor of her brother, a resident at Anderson Center for Autism. Since the event’s inception, Edwards has secured the participation of hundreds of students, teachers, and staff who donate funds for the right to wear pajamas to school in honor of autism awareness. This year, Edwards is working to secure the participation of student-run clubs from Hudson Valley school districts in order to grow the impact. Henry H Wells Middle School in Brewster and Anderson Center for Autism have signed on as participants, and Edwards is awaiting formal approvals from others in the region. New participants will be joined by East Quogue Elementary School, East Moriches Middle School, East Moriches Elementary School, and Starbright Children’s Center in the effort to raise money and heighten awareness. 

“My brother Riley is a full-time resident at Anderson Center for Autism, and I wanted to do something to help the organization that has made such an impact on his life. Beyond that, I want people to understand what autism is, and how people’s lives are touched,” said Edwards. “I have used a Power-Point presentation to help educate people about the event. Every person who wants to wear pajamas to school on Pajama Day donates $2, whether they are students, teachers, or staff. All of the funds go directly to Anderson Foundation for Autism in honor of my brother.” 
Robert Long, Superintendent and Principal at East Quogue Central School District, reflected, “We are honored and excited to participate in the fundraiser. We know what an important cause this is supporting and our students are excited to make a difference.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, prevalence rates for Autism Spectrum Disorder are now 1 in 59. The neurological disorder presents with social, communication, and behavioral challenges; Anderson Center for Autism is a not-for-profit organization that provides full-time residential care as well as vocational, educational, and clinical services for those impacted. Its mission is to optimize the quality of life for people with autism.

“Abby sets a wonderful example for all of us, using her good heart and energy to make a difference in the lives of others. Her family reports that she is her brother Riley’s biggest fan - and truth be told, we’re likewise all huge fans of Abby. She understands the importance of educating others about Autism, and the fact that programs and services require funding and support. Abby is an exceptional young lady; we’re grateful to have her as part of the Anderson Center for Autism family,” said Patrick Paul, CEO/Executive Director, Anderson Center for Autism.
Schools that wish to participate can read more here. For more information on Anderson Center for Autism, call 845.889.9208 or visit andersoncenterforautism.org, where donations can be earmarked for this project by notating “Abby’s Pajama Day” in the ‘special instructions’ section of the website.


TEENAGER SETS OUT TO RAISE THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR AUTISM PROGRAMS THROUGH 3rd ANNUAL PAJAMA DAY EVENT

News

Mar

07

March 7, 2019
HVNN.com

Staatsburg, New York and East Moriches, New York – Abby Edwards, a teenager from East Moriches, NY, announced today plans to expand a successful “Pajama Day” fundraiser initiative, originally based on Long Island, to the Hudson Valley region. The event, which has raised over $6500 for Anderson Center for Autism over the past few years, is scheduled this year for Friday, April 12th.
Edwards developed the concept in honor of her brother, a resident at Anderson Center for Autism. Since the event’s inception, Edwards has secured the participation of hundreds of students, teachers, and staff who donate funds for the right to wear pajamas to school in honor of autism awareness. This year, Edwards is working to secure the participation of student-run clubs from Hudson Valley school districts in order to grow the impact. Henry H Wells Middle School in Brewster and Anderson Center for Autism have signed on as participants, and Edwards is awaiting formal approvals from others in the region. New participants will be joined by East Quogue Elementary School, East Moriches Middle School, East Moriches Elementary School, and Starbright Children’s Center in the effort to raise money and heighten awareness.

“My brother Riley is a full-time resident at Anderson Center for Autism, and I wanted to do something to help the organization that has made such an impact on his life. Beyond that, I want people to understand what autism is, and how people’s lives are touched,” said Edwards. “I have used a Power-Point presentation to help educate people about the event. Every person who wants to wear pajamas to school on Pajama Day donates $2, whether they are students, teachers, or staff. All of the funds go directly to Anderson Foundation for Autism in honor of my brother.”

Robert Long, Superintendent and Principal at East Quogue Central School District, reflected, “We are honored and excited to participate in the fundraiser. We know what an important cause this is supporting and our students are excited to make a difference.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, prevalence rates for Autism Spectrum Disorder are now 1 in 59. The neurological disorder presents with social, communication, and behavioral challenges; Anderson Center for Autism is a not-for-profit organization that provides full-time residential care as well as vocational, educational, and clinical services for those impacted. Its mission is to optimize the quality of life for people with autism.
“Abby sets a wonderful example for all of us, using her good heart and energy to make a difference in the lives of others. Her family reports that she is her brother Riley’s biggest fan – and truth be told, we’re likewise all huge fans of Abby. She understands the importance of educating others about Autism, and the fact that programs and services require funding and support. Abby is an exceptional young lady; we’re grateful to have her as part of the Anderson Center for Autism family,” said Patrick Paul, CEO/Executive Director, Anderson Center for Autism.
Schools that wish to participate can read more here. For more information on Anderson Center for Autism, call 845.889.9208 or visit andersoncenterforautism.org, where donations can be earmarked for this project by notating “Abby’s Pajama Day” in the ‘special instructions’ section of the website.


'Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' opens Feb. 15 at Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebck

News

Feb

13

February 13, 2019
Daily Freeman

Christopher Boone, who likely has autism, is on a quest to find the killer of his neighbor's dog, challenging his relationship with his parents and a teacher. 

Will he crack the case? Find out in Rhinebeck Theatre Society's "Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," running at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck from Friday, Feb. 15, through Sunday, March 3, with an autism-friendly performance on Saturday, March 2, at 2 p.m. 

“Curious Incident presents the world as seen through the eyes of, and heard through, the ears of a young man whose likes and dislikes, dreams and fantasies, and strengths and weaknesses make him a unique individual who is forced to confront the mysteries and challenges of the world around him," Director Andy Weintraub said in a release. "He may succeed. He may fail. He may try. He may abstain.


"In that regard, he faces what everyone launched into this world faces. Christopher Boone could be anyone."

Written by Simon Stephens, "Curious Incident" took home the Tony Award for Best Play in 2015. It is based on a novel by Mark Haddon. 

Staged in partnership with The Anderson Center for Autism, the autism-friendly performance features lower sound and light effects and dimmed, not dark, house lighting designed to support those on the autism spectrum and their families. 

The lobby will be available for those who need to take a break during the show.

All audiences are welcome to the March 2 matinee.

 

The cast features Michael Wagner as Christopher; Alex Skovan as Ed, his father; Emily McCarthy as Siobhan, his teacher; and Dot Luongo as Judy, his mother. Additional members of the cast, including Patricia Seholm, David Foster, Aaron Michael Hall, Andy Crispell, Lisa Delia and Jody Satriani, play a total of 24 different roles. Music coordination is by Russ Austin. Marcus McGregor is movement director.

Shows are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, matinees at 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at centerforperformingarts.org/

The play may not be appropriate for young audiences. For more information, call (845) 876-3080.