Autism and Working

By Marcella Mackowiak

#JayGoltz of the #NewYorkTimes did a fantastic interview with Dave and Anthony, who is on the spectrum. It follows Anthony and is progress on getting a job at Mariano’s in Chicago. We as a community need to keep in mind that people on the spectrum are just as capable as the rest of us. The article below tells the story, and it’s a great read…

https://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/on-hiring-and-autism/

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How do I Understand Autism as a Sibling?

Image result for pictures of siblings who are autistic

By Marcella Mackowiak

A few months ago I found out that my nephew was diagnosed with autism. It was heartbreaking, but I pulled myself together to support my sister. However, she didn’t tell anyone else in our rather large family.

Last Saturday we all got together for my other nephew’s birthday and it was very clear to the other youngsters that something was wrong with my nephew. I didn’t know if I should explain, but my sister jumped in and said he was a little sick. Then she asked me what was wrong with him. I told her. If one of my many nephews had the courage to ask, then I wonder what the other ones were thinking.

Autism Speaks put an incredible booklet out to help siblings understand what autism is. It keeps it very simple by saying things like “autism effects the way the brain work,” “we don’t know what causes it,” and even giving descriptions of what autism looks like. I think that it’s good for cousins as well.

Check out the link below….

https://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/a_siblings_guide_to_autism.pdf

Advocacy Day Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

One of our students is studying Social Work at Northeastern Illinois Univerity (NEIU).  He is working very hard, and becoming incredibly active in the community as he dives into the policies and current issues that impact all people and their well-being.  He wrote a blog post about his experience at Advocacy Day in Springfield, IL.  We are very proud of his dedication, motivation, engagement, and determination!  

 

By Nathan Apelian

Advocacy Day was a very unique experience. The bus left NEIU at 5am, made it to Springfield at 9am, left Springfield at 3pm, and made it back to NEIU at 7pm. During this time I met two politicians and both from my district: State Rep Laura Fine (H17, NEIU Alumni) and Senator Daniel Biss (S09). Both of them are committed to helping people and very nice. Laura Fine’s Glenview office is down the street from where I live and I met her there also. Both I plan to meet again as I want to know their thoughts on bills and what they are doing in the community. I would like to meet Robyn Gabel, Kelly Cassidy, John D’Amico, and Heather Steans in the future as they represent nearby communities.

 

Advocacy Day is just the tip of the iceberg. I wanted to be involved in the social work field because I feel that there needs to be more advocates. Some people just protest, but I feel people need to do more. I am talking about getting to know the community, be involved with agencies, get familiar with the law, get familiar with bills, and to get to know state representatives and or senators regardless of their beliefs. I also wanted to get involved in social work as anxiety is one aspect that I wanted to look into as this affects young people, college students, elderly individuals, veterans, and people that work too much to name a few. In the next couple of years, I look forward to expanding my social work experience at the micro, mezzo and macro levels.

 

For further information on current and upcoming legislation, representatives and senators in Illinois, please visit: http://www.ilga.gov/

 

 

Are we aware yet?

By David Rooney, MNM

Monday, April 2nd, expect to see the Chicago cityscape awash in blue lights for World Autism Awareness Day.  This cool effect promotes a message for acceptance and acts like a beacon for events throughout April.  Families who live day-to-day with ASD often wonder why we need a day, week or month to raise awareness.  Certainly people get plenty of reminders?

Like most anything that consumes us, our lives don’t necessarily translate well to others, especially when regarding social interactions.  And frankly, we need as much compassion and understanding as possible to progress into the coming decades, as we work together to promote independence for our family members.  I’m not addressing the professionals, schools and therapists here exactly but more the neighbors, employers and landlords.  We need them to understand and accept those living with ASD too.

This awareness includes you and me.  It doesn’t take much for us to drift from our mission. Communication works best if we listen as much as we spread the word.  For instance, in our support communities how often do we welcome the outsider?  Of course we remain vigilant to keep our family safe, but do we consider assistance from somebody who genuinely wants to help, or can help but they do not bring direct experience, working with ASD.  We ask, how can they really understand?  When we welcome somebody new into our support community, we raise awareness and can even change minds and lives.

This week is my first-year anniversary working with Options for College Success.  I come from such an outsider’s background.  A Masters with a nonprofit focus helps, but prior to that, my professional experiences draw from careers in the private sector, specifically in home financing and media.  For starters, I know I can help find long term, supportive housing solutions for people living with ASD.  The team here recognize those and other qualities and welcome me.  And it starts with awareness.  We need to spread the word and welcome people from all walks.

On a personal note, my Sister-in-law, Joni’s birthday falls on April 2nd.  She passed away in 2015.  My brother, Larry and his family support my niece, Megan who keeps us aware about ASD.  At Joni’s Celebration of Life, I remember my nephew, Dann reading her posts about coping with her illness and the support, purpose and love Megan provides her entire family each day.  She and her two Cousins, (my nephews) also inspire me to keep up the good work.  Details like these require a discussion, far beyond what first impressions might give and result from an open awareness.

Reminders help too.

Options for College Success Presents…

By Samantha Kolkey, LCSW

 

Happy Friday y’all!

Options for College Success is proud to inform everyone that we are hosting a free event on planning for now and the future!

We are bringing together Andre Sam from The Special Needs Education and Advocacy Project and Kathryn Jackson from Autism Spectrum Therapies for an evening workshop discussing the logistical and emotional support needs in life transitions for individuals with disabilities. In addition, there will be a special segment presented by staff from Northwestern University’s Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab regarding their current research studies on autism and Fragile X.

This event is on Wednesday, February 28th 2018 from 6:00pm-8:00pm at the Segal Visitor’s Center at Northwestern University.

We will have refreshments!

Please let me know if you plan to attend.  Email: skolkey@optionsforcollegesuccess.org.

I hope to see you there!

special needs education and advocacy project image

Dating and Autism

Image result for dating images

By Marcella Mackowiak

I’m not a parent, but I’m watching my friends and family raise teenagers. I find it humorous listening to the stories that they tell me, but I could not imagine what these stories would sound like if their teens were on the spectrum. Maybe not funny, but more perplexing, like “how do I explain [x],” or “is it okay for Jane to know about [y]?” Autism Speaks posted a great article which includes dating tips for teens on the spectrum. Click the link to read below, but they also have some other dating articles. I’ve attached an extra one on tips for potential dating partners.

https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2018/01/12/ten-steps-help-teen-autism-navigate-dating?utm_source=email&utm_medium=text-link&utm_campaign=espeaks

tps://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2016/05/31/10-things-i-wish-people-knew-about-dating-someone-who-has-autism?utm_source=email&utm_medium=text-link&utm_campaign=espeaks

Advocacy, awareness and action

By Samantha Kolkey

Despite us being one day late, I want to recognize the importance of the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  Below is a message from the Secretary General of the United Nations, where he also identifies the theme for this year:

Secretary-General’s Message for 2017

“Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”

Resilience is central to achieving sustainable development. In its pledge to leave no one behind, the 2030 Agenda embodies a commitment to building the capacities of those who face marginalization and exclusion, in order to reduce their vulnerability to economic, social and environmental shocks.

In recent years, the international community has achieved notable progress in advancing the rights of the world’s one billion persons with disabilities. Disability is recognized as a cross-cutting issue in the 2030 Agenda, the New Urban Agenda and the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Yet, persons with disabilities remain too often excluded from the design, planning and implementation of policies and programmes that have an impact on their lives. Too often they face discrimination in labour markets and in access to education and other services.

To overcome this challenge, the path towards inclusive, accessible, usable facilities, technologies, infrastructure, services and products must be ensured by, for and with persons with disabilities. We must build on their agency, working together to design, develop and implement affordable and innovative solutions to realize equality for all.

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let us remove physical and cultural barriers, build resilient societies and create opportunities that truly leave no one behind.

António Guterres

Ensuring appropriate funding, technologies, medications, therapies, education, accessible spaces, and inclusive vocational and living opportunities are imperative issues at hand.

I will shamelessly promote my organization, Options for College Success, as we are a small part of the U.N’s agenda and 2017 theme. We provide an array of services to all individuals with learning challenges and disabilities for them to develop the confidence, courage, and skills to live independently, to live their best lives! We develop unique and personalized ways to support the individual in achieving their goals and following their passions. We advocate strongly for our clientele and those who are not part of our Options family.

In celebration of the day (even though it was yesterday), we encourage everyone to advocate for improved special education services in schools, for improved post-secondary options for those with disabilities (please see H.R. 3199), to think about ways to be inclusive and recognize where we are failing to do this, donate or volunteer for organizations that dedicate themselves to ensure that those with disabilities are not neglected in any way and are helping individuals become as self-sustaining as possible, and resilient members of our society.

Please check out the U.N.’s website on this day.  They lay out their plans and committees, the work they are doing internationally for this cause, and for more information:

http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/index.shtml