If you read yesterday's post, you know that over the long weekend I "met" some wonderful folks via Twitter hashtag #youmightbeanautismparentif. One of those folks is Heather McCracken, founder and executive director of Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society. This is her story ~
*Necessity is the Mother of a Child On the Autism Spectrum
I will never forget the moment my son was diagnosed…I started to cry, but not because I was upset that the doctor had agreed with my suspicions. I cried out of relief that someone finally saw what I saw, that someone finally believed me. Up to that point I had been on my own. After eighteen long and torturous months and an incredible twelve different physicians finally, on a rainy day in December, one doctor had the courage to agree with a mother's intuition.
What I did not know was that the events of December 4, 1995 would alter the course of my life. My path from that moment forward was a journey with one goal – to ensure that son Iain would know that he was accepted, understood and loved for who he was within his family, his community and his peer group.
My son, like so many others I know on the autism spectrum, wants the one thing that most individuals his age want - to have friends. All individuals regardless of their unique challenges or gifts have the intrinsic need to play, make friends and be accepted for who they are. Individuals with autism are no different; they just express this need differently.
Fast-forward three years to when Iain started kindergarten. Watching him suffer from this social isolation in the school environment, I felt compelled to do what I could to change this situation, not only for my son, but also for other children who experience these same social difficulties. In 2002, after several years of research I designed the Friend 2 Friend Autism Demystification model and programs and founded Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society, a non-profit charity based in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada.
The Friend 2 Friend Model works to promote understanding, acceptance, and empathy in an effort to foster mutually rewarding friendships between children with autism spectrum and related social communication disorders and their peers, siblings and classmates. This is done by designing and providing programs using age-appropriate tools such as puppets in the Friend 2 Friend Puppet Program for children ages 3-12, and a sensory Simon Says game as part of the Friend 2 Friend Simulation Game Program for children ages 12 and up.