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In his book “The Tipping Point,” author Malcolm Gladwell discusses the influence that a community can have on individuals and how susceptible people, especially children, are to the communal influences around them.  One of his statements is that no matter what is taught within the walls of a home, outside influences often have a stronger influence on children than our home.

Blue skies this weekend?

Blue skies this weekend?

 

Well, this week I got to spend a couple of hours with a community that has definitely shaped our lives and has left a profound influence on me.  As part of Light It Up Blue in April, Utah Valley University hosts an Autism Conference that culminates with a balloon launch on Saturday. The balloon launch last year was the inaugural event and we were excited to attend this year as well.  Since our decision to mainstream the boys, we’ve really had minimal contact with our Autism Community here and we definitely miss it!

Brave Kid - I stayed five ft away

Brave Kid – I stayed five ft away

 

As soon as we got to the event, we ran into two of the aids that worked with our boys last year at Giant Steps, as well as the former director of a program called The Bridges at Kids on The Move.  Within half an hour we ran into our boys main teacher from last year, the director of Giant Steps, as well as four other teachers / aids who have worked with our boys over the past two years.  The boys were excited by all the activities around them but it was so neat to see them recognize and smile at their teachers.  Twin B and I were in line to get shaved ice and he saw his teacher from last year and actually left the line we were in to run over and say hi to her.  We LOVE the individuals that have dedicated the time, love and energy to autistic individuals and one part of this great Autism Community is definitely compromised of these people.

Helping the Wolverine after knocking him over as part of the "Angry Birds' Game

Helping the Wolverine after knocking him over as part of the “Angry Birds’ Game

 

After we ran into all their teachers and caught up on life and ‘the happenings’ of our twins, we ran into a number of parents and friends we haven’t seen recently.   We are all in different programs of various shapes and sizes and it was nice to catch up and see where other families are at.

Gorgeous with the boys

Gorgeous with the boys

The kids had a blast at the different activities and were so excited to see their balloons launch with hundreds of others . . . . I think each twin let at least two balloons off prematurely but hey, the third time was the charm!

Love this picture

Love this picture

Somewhere in the midst of all this was also a baseball game – perfect timing since my daughter is doing a book report on baseball . . . not sure why she picked that but hey, it works.  I’ll be honest – we have an extremely supportive group of friends and family around us and we are extremely blessed to have them.  However, it is nice to get together with a group of friends who understand the freak-outs, the incessant questions on schedules, the social anxiety and issues.  I am grateful for this community and all they have done for our family.  WE LOVE YOU!

Man it has been a BUSY 24 hours . . . . it’s 10:30pm on Saturday Night and we still are waiting for one more person to arrive before we can hit the sack!  It all started last night with a ‘team and family meeting.’  We are on a Ragnar Relay Team (12 crazy individuals running something like 250 miles over a 36 hr period) and had the first get-together last night which included kids and families.  It was great to see the boys running around playing hide and seek with friends. . . . .  late night and it just kept coming from there!  Here’s how today turned out:

8:30AM: For the past two months, we’ve been meeting with students from the education dept at BYU – participating in their studies of families with special needs children.  Today was our final meeting and we are grateful for their help and advice over this research period.  The three ladies were fantastic!  Awesome ideas . . . great social stories and charts . . . . pictorial to use as well . . . . fabulous!

9:30AM: Out the door!  The boys had their first soccer game of the season and my daughter was at her game a city over!

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Boyz sporting their UVU Fair T-Shirts!

11:30AM: Leave straight from soccer to the Autism Awareness Kickoff at Utah Valley University (read the press release here).  There were festivities, food, games, and the highlight was a blue balloon launch at the start of the baseball game this afternoon.  We stayed for two innings of baseball (and almost watched a mom get hit on the head with a foul ball).

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Some ‘friends’ at one of the booths . . .snakes, turtles, lizards and other fun pets!

2:30: Somehow, we ended up leaving the game with one of the boys’ school friends with us so . . . . . even if it isn’t ‘spring weather’ this weekend, we ended up at the park for an hour.

Light It Up Blue!

Light It Up Blue!

3:30: SmashBrothers Tournament on the Wii begins!

5:30: Dinner and the arrival of five neighborhood kids that we are babysitting tonight 

7:00pm: School friend goes home

8:00pm: Take other neighborhood kids home

9:00pm: Kiddos in bed – begin cleaning the house for an unexpected house guest staying the night

9:30pm: FINALLY SOME FREE TIME!

 It was a really awesome day.  It was nice to ‘be busy’ all day.  The kids all did well at their soccer games – my wife said the boys game went so well. . . . . the other coach needs to take a few chill pills but she said that the boys really did ok . . . ran after the ball . . . got a few kicks in . . .cheered each other on . . . AND NO BREAKDOWNS!  I’ll post more about soccer in a future post and the struggles we’ve had but at the same time, the amount of growth we’ve seen in the boys.

The UVU Fair was great – we ran into the boys teacher and school facilitator . . . their teacher this year has been extremely helpful in coaching me on different ways to handle things with the boys, something I definitely have learned from and appreciate!  We ran into past teachers who have worked with the boys, facilitators at past schools / programs that have seen their programs blossom and EXPLODE (which we are extremely excited about).  We found out there are pictures of the boys used in pamphlets and some posters at one of their past programs, Kids on the Move,  and we were happy to hear that.  Here’s one of the pics.

Kids On The Move

Models! :)

I don’t think any of them read the blog (or even know it exists) but I’d like to tell them all how lucky we are to have them in our lives.  “Paul,” who was also instrumental in setting up the Peter Pan Ballet Performance we went to a few weeks back, bear hugged the boys and picked them up and had them laughing and cheering . . . . . seriously awesome stuff.  Time for bed!  Hope your weekend was great as well.

On Friday April 20th, 2012, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at UVU will host the 2012 UVU Conference on Autism.  Here’s a link to UVU’s Conference Page where you can find more information on the program, speakers, and activities.

It looks like there will be child care offered by one of the nearby Autism Groups – Kids on the Move so that’s an added benefit to allow parents to attend.  It is so much more convenient when something is planned for the middle of the workday and there is childcare offered.

Looking forward to seeing you there!


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