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PERVASIVE PARENTING: Understanding Autism - February 26th

Introduction

The thing about autism, or any disability for that matter, is that until you’re affected with it personally you usually don’t know or understand much about it. Which lead me to begin writing this column in 2011.

Now some of you may recognize my name. I worked for almost eight years in journalism which included stints with the Poteau Daily News and the Southwest Times Record, as well as some work in radio. I also played for seven years in the regional band South 40, traveling throughout the mid-south playing music. I have worked for Carl Albert State College for the past seven years wearing many different hats along the way.

However, my most important job, the one I take most serious, and the one that leads me to write this column, is being a father and husband. My wife Jennifer and I have two sons, Konner, eight; and Kruz, five. They both are the most important aspects of our lives, and the most demanding as well.

The oldest was diagnosed with high Functioning Autism shortly after he turned three. That diagnosis changed my world forever. This alteration was both positive and negative. Challenging is the best way I can put fatherhood, but with a child with a disability this tends to be amplified.

It’s those challenges that have allowed me to become, what I hope is, a better father. That is what sparked my interest to write this column. I am a curious person by nature. I tend to want to research information that I don’t understand, and share that data with others. My hope is that by sharing the information that I had questions about I will help educate individuals in the ignorance of many problems that I, and many others, deals with on a daily basis. There is so much that I don’t know about Autism, and I want to give my son the best chance in life, so I am working overtime to do that. My hope is that I can help others at the same time.

I chose the name Pervasive Parenting for several reasons. Pervasive Developmental Disorder is one of many terms associated with Autism. Pervasive is defined as: spreading throughout. I feel that this is what I plan to accomplish with this column, which is to spread the word and awareness about Autism by trying to educate people.

In future columns I plan to share information including stories, difficulties, articles, books, and any kind of information I have found helpful in the past. I also anticipate interaction with other parents to help them and myself cope with problems we are all having. I will focus on Autism because that is the issue that I deal with on a daily basis. However, I expect that some of the information will spill over into any disability, as well as parents with “neurotypical” children (more explanation of this term in future columns).

While this is an opinion column, and anyone who knows me knows I am not afraid of sharing my opinion, I plan to keep this an educational column, which means that my outlook will be backed up as much as possible with facts. I don’t pretend to know everything about Autism; nor do I pretend to be an expert on the subject. I just want to use some of my knowledge to help others.

I do welcome interaction from the community. Autism is a disorder that, according to Autism Speaks (the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization), affects 1 in 50 children in America. That’s an astounding number that seems to be growing every year. That means that most people who read this will know someone, either directly or indirectly, who is affected by the disorder. This is why I feel it is important for me to write this column. Many people just know someone who is affected and don’t fully understand the issues that the parents are going through. However, there are parents everyday who are receiving a diagnosis for their child and are, as I was almost three years ago, lost in the world of what to do, how to care for their child, how to cope with the strain, how to advocate for your child, and many other issues and emotions that come with this large task.

I also belong to a wonderful group called Parents of Autism, which is based out of Poteau. I will talk a little more about them in future columns, but I will tell you that there are currently around 15 families that meet every month or two to discuss issues they are having, share books, advice, listen to guest speakers, and just vent about the day to day issues they are dealing with. If you are interested in joining this group you can find us on Facebook; just search Parents of Autism. I will try to let everyone know ahead of time when we are meeting so that you can come to the events. New members are always welcome.

I feel that educating ourselves on the issues is the only way that we can give our children a fair chance at a life that is as normal as possible for something that has their world already out of control.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me atkodeytoney@hotmail.com. I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column. You can visit http://pervasiveparenting.blogspot.com/ to find back issues of my column.

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