September 17, 2014

A Speech for Autism Speaks

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , at 12:58 pm by autismmommytherapist

Autism Speaks Philly2

For me, last night was a little bit of magic.

Not Disney magic, or those fabulous nights when both my children sleep through the night until dawn, but magic just the same.

Last night I got to speak to autistic people and families of autistic children about my experiences with the boys, plus I got to use my book as a fundraising vehicle, which is pretty much why I wrote the thing in the first place.

Okay, the other reason was it was a cheaper catharsis than shopping, but that’s beside the point.

Last evening I had the honor of speaking at the Philadelphia kick-off for the Autism Speaks walk. About three hundred people were in attendance (since I’m used to speaking to about thirty kids at a time I frankly was in a cold sweat prior to “performing,” but I got through it), including people with autism, their families, and individuals just out to support the upcoming walk.

Melissa Zavorksi was my contact for the event, and the night ran seamlessly. Participants moved from informative station to informative station, and ultimately the night culminated in free food (yay!) and several speeches by parents and Autism Speaks employees. They were all moving and eloquent, and I was struck once again by the magnitude of Autism Speak’s commitment to the autism community, their dedication and drive to help families realize their best lives. I enjoyed every single minute of their stories.

But the person who stole the show was without question Sam, an autistic adult.

I listened, captivated by the story of Cathy Kanefsky, Vice President of Chapter Development and most importantly (according to her) mother of adult autistic twins. She shared her journey eloquently, one I felt was a great deal more difficult than mine as her sons are twelve years older than Justin, and I believe the autism landscape to have been a bleak and inhospitable place almost a quarter century ago. Cathy spoke with pride of her boys, and was able to have her son Sam come up and talk a little bit about his excitement for the upcoming walk (I’ll share with you there was some “roof raising” involved.)

It was so powerful to witness his enthusiasm, to watch him connect with the audience, to hear him speak with such grace.

And trust me, the audience loved him back.

I have to admit the best part of the evening for me was connecting with the families, hearing them share their stories about their children, and having them ask questions of me regarding mine. If I’m being totally honest my favorite encounter was with my new best friend Lakisha, who informed me “I didn’t look like I’d been through what I’d been through,” which I chalk up to a great wrinkle cream and even better genes inherited from my mother’s side.

Between her kind commentary and seeing Sam speak my night was made.

After talking at two different sessions the night wrapped up, and as my husband Jeff and I collected our gear I had a moment before sneaking one last pig in a blanket to reflect on the evening. I am so honored to have been a participant, to have contributed my story and some funding to this organization. What struck me as I met all the employees involved in putting this event together was both their zeal to better the lives of all autistic individuals and their families, and the magnitude with which Autism Speaks has accomplished just that. I am proud to have been just a tiny part of their efforts, and confident that with time they will realize their goals.

And I know this truth- than when things get tough with my eldest son, I’ll think about Sam. Sam, who connected with his peers, who has a job he’s paid for, who quite obviously delights in every aspect of his life.

This one’s for you Sam. Thank you.



  1. Chad said,

    Glad you had the opportunity to share your wisdom with others. I am sure your speech was phenomenal. Great stuff!

  2. Colleen said,

    Hi, we actually met this night and I was able to buy a copy of your book. (My husband and I were your first customers lol)
    I wanted to let you know I read it, and I loved it. I laughed a little, cried a lot, especially towards the end and reading about Zachary and what led to his diagnosis. His story reminded me a lot of my little one’s. Thanks for putting your story out there, I’m sure it will help so many.
    Wishing you and your family the best.


    • Colleen, you completely made my day, that is exactly why I wrote it! Thanks so much, wishing you and yours the best and a happy Thanksgiving!

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