J & J’s Gibberish: Autism Advocates

One mother's weekly journey in raising her special needs children. 

Autistic kids have some big names in Canada advocating for them, and this is a good thing. Tireless advocates like Senator Jim Munson and Mike Lake MP keep the topic on the front burner on the political front.  In the Senate right now, thanks to an inquiry Munson tabled, the Senate is looking at autism, marking the tenth anniversary of the release of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s report on autism entitled Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis

It is also thanks in large part to the efforts of celebrities, like Silken Laumann, who speak out on issues and help get the word out on programs that exist to help families. 

Thanks to her involvement, a Samsung and Autism Speaks initiative is getting the attention it deserves. While they joined forces back in 2015 to produce a Samsung app that helps families with autistic kids, I only heard about it thanks to her involvement.  Sometimes, families are so buried in dealing with their challenges they don’t have time to research and do the groundwork to find out what is out there to help. High-profile campaigns sure help to grab attention. 

The app, Samsung Look at Me, works with kids and their families on improving eye contact and gesture-based communication. So far, Samsung has donated over 1000 families with tablets pre-loaded with the app. (The app is available for free on Google Play)

Samsung is continuing its autism education campaign which is fantastic, and the theme this year is love. Love Spectrum celebrates the unique ways kids on the Spectrum share their love and connect. (There is also another tablet giveaway by the way.)

Laumann explains that one of the biggest misconceptions about autism is that these kids don’t feel or can’t express love and affection. “There is nothing further from the truth.”  She ought to know.  She is the stepmom to Kilee, a beautiful autistic daughter who is on the severe end of the spectrum.  “People who have autism just have a different way to express their love.” When she heard about the Samsung campaign, she was onboard. “This is something I can do.  I can speak to that.”  She says that when Kilee came into her life ten years ago, it took time for her and her other children to realize that “she loves them but expresses it differently.”

Laumann says technology opens the doors to communication for these kids. When Kilee got her first tablet five years ago, it was life altering for her family in everything from expressing emotions to even just sharing what happens when they aren’t together. “Technology gives her a way of telling us what she does.  Now, we review her day visually.”

Silken Laumann is inspirational on so many levels. Being an Olympic medalist who overcame huge obstacles on her road to success, she inspires us to persevere in every way, including getting to the gym. She has worked on mental health issues by opening up on her struggles growing up and now, she inspires with her work on autism.

Blended families obviously have challenges but throw in a special needs child and their experiences become even more poignant. “There were moments that were difficult,” as everyone adjusted to the new reality but she said what really helped her family was open dialogue. (It helps mine too.)

One of the things that gets lost in the discussion is the time demand of a special needs kid and the effects of that on other members of the family. “Open dialogue is a big thing and it was critical for ensuring that the needs of our other kids were/are met.  And in many, many ways Kilee brought us all together.  She has taught us all compassion. Ours is a success story.”

Any survival tips?

She said, “look after yourself.”  She said it is the number way to ensure you can continue to look after your family.  “Your demands as a special needs parent are greater.”

Two: Keep your sense of humour. “Look at the situation and laugh.  Do not take other people’s reactions to what happens too seriously.” 

Three: Exercise: not just you but your kids.  “It is a grounding force for everyone.”

I will listen to her.  She knows what she is talking about.

To apply for your free Samsung tablet, visit http://pages.samsung.com/ca/thelovespectrum/English/ 
You have until November 3rd so move fast.  And get the free app at Google Play.