FEBRUARY IS AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH
The USSSA is hosting it’s 2nd annual Angels 4 Autism series of girls fastpitch tournaments in 21 states, with an expected participation of over 50,000 players, fans, coaches, parents, umpires and representatives from the Autism community. These programs provide up to date information awareness to all who attend. The USSSA, is committed to helping those children, adults and families who live with and struggle with autism everyday.
Alex’s older sister Sarah was a member of the Blue Angels fast pitch softball team located in Delray Beach, FL. In April 2016 head Coach Marco Spells had an idea to celebrate Autism and “light it up blue” for the entire month. He generously supplied his players with Autism-themed socks they could wear, saving a special pair for our superhero, Alex.
That same year, Alex’s sister Sarah, having been inspired by Coach Marco, asked if she could design a T-shirt that could be sold during Autism Awareness month the following April. Her idea was that all the proceeds would be donated to Autism research and family support. Coach Spells not only agreed, but brought the idea to do an actual Autism Awareness tournament to Gordon Patterson, the Florida USSSA director. Gordon enthusiastically agreed to put the pieces together. He then worked tirelessly to involve other USSSA State Directors and turned a single venue “Angels 4 Autism” tournament into a USSSA coast to coast Autism Awareness campaign.
Our wish is that every superhero with Autism is blessed to have such a supportive team, guiding them on their journey to reach their potential. Coach Spells, USSSA’s Gordon Patterson and Sarah helped shine a light for Alex to believe in his dreams and reach the world in a way that we never could have imagined. #oneteamonedream
WHAT IS AUTISM
Listed below is some information about people with Autism.
After reading this, you will know more about Autism than most.
- Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.
- Autism is diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls.
- A child of any race, region, or socio-economic status can be affected.
- Since autism was first diagnosed in the U.S. the incidence has climbed to an alarming one in 68 children in the U.S.
- The mortality risk among individuals with autism is twice as high as the general population, in large part due to drowning and other accidents.
- Currently there is no cure for autism, though with early intervention and treatment, a wide variety of symptoms related to Autism can be greatlyimproved and in some cases completely overcome.
- Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder, yet most underfunded.
- Autism greatly varies from person to person.
- Children with autism do progress – early intervention is key.
A person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (or ASD) might:
- Not respond to their name (the child may appear deaf)
- Not point at objects or things of interest, or demonstrate interest
- Not play “pretend” games
- Avoid eye contact
- Want to be alone
- Have difficulty understanding, or showing understanding, or other people’s feelings or their own
- Have no speech or delayed speech
- Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
- Give unrelated answers to questions
- Get upset by minor changes
- Have obsessive interests
- Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
- Have unusual reactions (over or under-sensitivity) to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
- Have low to no social skills
- Avoid or resist physical contact
- Demonstrate little safety or danger awareness
- Reverse pronouns (e.g., says “you” instead of “I”)
People with autism may also:
- Have unusual interests and behaviors
- Have extreme anxiety and phobias, as well as unusual phobias
- Line up toys or other objects
- Play with toys the same way every time
- Like parts of objects (e.g., wheels)
- Become upset by minor changes
- Have obsessive interests
- Hyperactivity (very active)
- Impulsivity (acting without thinking)
- Short attention span
- Causing self injury
- Unusual eating and sleeping habits
- Unusual mood or emotional reactions
- Lack of fear or more fear than expected
- Have unusual sleeping habits
With 1 in 68 children being diagnosed with Autism in the United States, it is likely that you may have a friend, coworker or a family member affected by Autism. While people are overall more Autism aware, they may not realize how and what they can do to support their friend or family member and their child with Autism. Here are some things you can do to help a family that has a child has with Autism:
Learn About Autism
A great way to start supporting a family affected by Autism is to learn more about Autism. It is also important to remember the saying ‘If you’ve met one person with Autism, you you’ve met one person with Autism.’ Not only will it be great that you better understand Autism, but the parent will also feel REALLY supported!
Ask Us About Our Kids
Parents love to share about their children with Autism, especially to celebrate ongoing successes and new milestones. It’s okay to ask your friend “How is your child doing?” It never hurts to ask us what our kids have been up to. Like all parents, we love to brag and boast about our kids accomplishments. Be there to listen.
Go the Extra Mile
Parent of newly diagnosed children may not call or visit as much as usual and sometimes it may seem like they’ve lost interest. But please understand this is not the case. They may be busy with meetings and therapies. From calling insurance companies to school districts, parents can face many obstacles trying to help their child with Autism access the services he or she needs. Their child may also have difficulty with transitions, making it challenging to visit friends’ homes or new places. Catching up with a phone call can be a great way to stay connected. Or offer to swing by their house with coffee to take the pressure off.
Be a Good Listener
You may find your friend wants to talk about the diagnosis. Her own feelings about it may change from day to day – Be a good listener. Go out of your way to be compassionate and understanding and let her know you can be a go-to person when she needs to talk or a pick me up.
Acceptance Strengthens Friendship
Asking about their child’s progress (see above) will help you learn about the child’s strengths and challenges. Even though you may not know everything about Autism, it will mean the world if you get to know and build a relationship with our kiddo. This will make your friendship even stronger! Plus, you will be an even better babysitter!
Caring for the Caregiver
Finding respite and time to recharge is an important part of being an Autism parent. You can help by offering to watch your friend’s child with Autism (if you are comfortable doing so) or to watch the typical siblings so your friend can have time for a break.
Another way to help is by teaching your own children about Autism. Some children with Autism may have trouble making friends and can be bullied by peers. You can help just by offering to include your friend’s child in group and one-on-one activities with your kids. They can find out they have similar interests and will learn it can feel good to be a friend to someone who may need one. A new meaningful friendship for any child is always great, as it increases acceptance of individual differences and an individual’s understanding of diversity.
Even though we may always seem busy and you might have not spoken to us in a while, we still love to go out to eat, go to the movies, go for a run, go to a game or see a concert. We are still the same friend you grew to know and love! However, if we cannot make it, please don’t take it personally and invite us to the next one!
Each Tournament director has committed to donating a portion of their proceeds to their own local and or national Autism charities.
We would like to give special thanks to:
Gordon Patterson, Marco Spells, Cheri Spells, Kelly Green, Sarah Green, Karla Rader, Cindi Hall, Karen Wright, Eddie Small, Tim Foster, Joe Wilson, Bill Knoppi, Lamar Bradford, Don Dare, James Ryan, Lake Lytal Palm Beach County and the USSSA whose constant support will ensure that Angels 4 Autism is an annual event for years to come.