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August 2017 Letter From Publisher

Nicole Miale

Nicole Miale

In this issue we take a fresh look at autism, which is still poorly understood by many personally unaffected by the epidemic. As Gabriella True, one of our stellar local contributors this month writes, “It matters that many people still believe autism is lifelong and not treatable, or not something some children can recover from.” We’re excited to present to you articles that may challenge preconceived notions. We hope the information provides education, inspiration and even hopeful ideas for those in need or those just curious about how to better support a loved one or friend.

Many years ago, during summers and winter vacations from college, I worked at a group home for adults with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other lifelong challenges. It was there I had my first experience with autism. I was thrown in the deep end as the folks I was caring for were at the very severe end of the spectrum; most were nonverbal and required extensive care and assistance with activities of daily living. I loved working with the clients and the environment was caring and collegial… there were certainly few dull moments.

As we put this issue together, I reflected on my experience and the enormous difference between what I did as a part-time caregiver and the experience of a parent caring for their own child on the autism spectrum. At the end of my shift and vacations, I went back to my regular life. The parents of children on the spectrum may be rarely—if ever—afforded the luxury of extended breaks from their child’s needs. Like every parent, the parents of non-typical children must be equal parts cheerleader, disciplinarian, teacher, nurturer, doctor and chauffeur. However, these parents know the roles they play may not change—or may change only slightly—as they and their children age. Their child’s maturity and entry into society as a functional, productive adult may or may not happen, depending on the severity of the situation. Recovery is possible for some, but every situation is unique and requires a tremendous amount of research, diligence and even activism on the parents’ part. These parents have my utmost respect and admiration; their children are incredibly fortunate to have such devoted caregivers.

As summer days wind down, we offer some suggestions for fun warm-weather activities appropriate for everyone regardless of age or ability. Inclusive playgrounds welcome people of all ages and abilities; there are at least two in Connecticut. Hiking is a personal favorite pastime of mine and can be done in some fashion by anyone. A hike can be a stroll in relatively flat gardens, a half-day strenuous rock-climb, an overnight or an extended trek and everything in between. No experience is the same and simply the act of being in nature affords tremendous benefits to every human. State parks and great hiking locations abound in this area—most likely you won’t have to drive more than a half hour—to find a great spot to ramble and explore. Enjoy!

With love and light,

Nicole

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