This Saturday, many volunteers and those who care about Sammy will be building a fence for him. We were approached by the VFW in Boiling Springs recently about what Sammy needs right now in his life. At first, we thought of communication devices but since he already has an iPad, we came to the conclusion that the most beneficial thing for Sammy would be a fence. Sammy loves to go outside and walk around the yard, but because he has no recognition of danger -- he is totally unaware of the fact that it is not safe to wonder out of the yard, go into the street, approach dogs he doesn't know, etc. During the spring and summer, he often requests to go out back and walk around or swing, but without the proper supervision, he can't go out. Could you imagine wanting to just go sit outside but not being allowed because your mom was cooking dinner and you didn't know you weren't allowed to walk into the street? I couldn't. So, a fence is perfect -- Sammy can go outside and enjoy the sun without needing us to follow him around the yard. I can't wait for the fence.
This amazing gesture made me realize how thankful I am for those in Sammy's life who care about him. It also makes me thankful for volunteers and staff that work with individuals with special needs. I do what I do because I'm his sister. I have a personal connection to Autism but those who just volunteer their time or choose a career in this field amaze me. They take the time to get to know people like my brother so they can help him succeed. They want to make him happy and help him have more independence and a better life.
I am thankful for those of you who stop and say hi to Sammy when we arrive, and act like he deserves a simple greeting just like anyone else even if he doesn't make eye contact or respond. I am thankful for those of you apart of Camp PALS and Special Olympics and other organizations where you volunteer your time to have fun with people with special needs. I am thankful for therapists and teachers who help my brother and others. I am thankful for those of you who come to Sammy's birthdays and celebrations. I am thankful for those of you who give pep talks about what Sammy could achieve and will achieve. I am thankful for those of you who see a future for Sammy and support him no matter what. I am thankful for those of you who offer to watch him or get him a snack when we are at parties or events. There is an endless list of thank you's.
What I am most thankful for are those of you who treat him like a human being. The fact that you take the time to interact with him and care about him. Most people wouldn't give him a second look or bother because he might not respond or understand. But those of you who do take the time understand that Sammy is in there -- he is just like any of us and deserves human interaction.
I can't wait to see these amazing people build this fence for my baby brother. It is an heartwarming gift and gesture that I cannot put into words for how thankful and appreciative I am. Having a fence will let Sammy do something he loves just like any other 15 year old. If anyone is interested in coming to help or just wants to spend time with Sammy and our family, please contact me!
Autism from a sibling's point of view...
My name is Paige and I am 26 years old. I graduated from Towson University with a Psychology Bachelors Degree and from Johns Hopkins with a Post-Bacc Certificate in Education of Autism and other Pervasive Disorders at . I recently left my job at Kennedy Krieger Institute and began my Master's Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at University of South Florida. My younger brother, Sammy, is 20 and has Autism. He is non-vocal, unaware of safety, is not toilet trained, cannot get himself dressed, and has difficulty with everyday activities that we all take advantage of. He works harder every single day of his life than anyone I know and he always does it with a smile on his face. He is my true hero and inspiration and because of him, I have dedicated my life to advocating and creating opportunities for individuals with Autism. I hope that I can make him proud and this blog is just a small part of the awareness I hope I can create about Autism and support other siblings impacted by Autism. I love you Sammy - thank you for everything.