Monthly Archives: June 2015

For Kristen: Autism Awareness Block Party

imageMy niece, Kristen, has autism. On Saturday July 11, 2015, Kristen’s parents, Lamont and Krissalyn Love, will host a block party to raise awareness and funds for less fortunate people who have children diagnosed with autism. Proceeds will go to the Lexington Hearing and Speech School in Lexington, Kentucky (their hometown).

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism, is a group of complex disorders of brain development characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors (Autism Speaks Inc.).

Here are some fast facts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) have autism.
  • Research has shown that a diagnosis of autism at age 2 can be reliable, valid, and stable.
  • Studies have shown that parents of children with autism notice a developmental problem before their child’s first birthday. Concerns about vision and hearing were more often reported in the first year, and differences in social, communication, and fine motor skills were evident from 6 months of age.
  • Autism commonly co-occurs with other developmental, psychiatric, neurologic, chromosomal, and genetic diagnoses (co-occurrence of one or more non-ASD developmental diagnoses is 83%; co-occurrence of one or more psychiatric diagnoses is 10%)
  • It is estimated to cost at least $17,000 more per year to care for a child with autism compared to a child without autism. Costs include health care, education, ASD-related therapy, family-coordinated services, and caregiver time. For a child with more severe ASD, costs per year increase to over $21,000. Taken together, it is estimated that total societal costs of caring for children with ASD were over $9 billion in 2011.
  • In addition to medical costs, intensive behavioral interventions for children with ASD cost $40,000 to $60,000 per child per year.

Please read the Love family’s story and donate here to help them achieve their goal of raising $5,000.

Their Story: We noticed Kristen was not speaking like children her age, so we quickly got First Steps to try and intervene. Unfortunately, progress was not made in the way that we had hoped. Right around time for Kristen to turn three, we got assessments after assessments done to see why Kristen was not hitting her developmental milestones. We learned shortly thereafter that Kristen had autism.

We were devastated, as we didn’t know much about autism and we feared that she may not grow up to be a “functional” member of society. Fast forward a few months later, with prayer and patience, we have learned that autism isn’t a death sentence, but it is a help to hope sentence. We are hopeful with great intervention that our little Kristen will flourish to be the beautiful, smart, socially functional little girl that we foresee.

What we have also learned, is that along with patience, constant desires to learn more and imagemore about autism, that there is a large expense attached to having a child with special needs. Our goal is to begin an annual tradition that grows to be a revenue builder for grants, scholarships, and research.

Vision: What do you think of when you think of a block party? We automatically think of a neighborhood party with family and friends, full of laughter, music, fun, food, and games. That’s our vision for the block party.

Here is the twist though: with children who have autism, they often have a certain toy or kind of toy that brings them joy. In our experience with Kristen, she absolutely loves anything to do with blocks: building blocks, Legos, building shapes, etc. So on one hand, it will be your typical block party; but on the other: expect to be blown away!

This is a family event where we invite people indirectly and directly affected with autism or any special needs child to come and enjoy a night out. Our hope is to educate those who may not know much about autism to learn what it is like having autistism, as well as to learn what it is like to love someone with autism.

There will be building blocks everywhere, mostly made of cardboard boxes. There will also be “blocks” of times for scheduled events. The idea is to do things that would be appealing to children with autism to teach people how some children with autism respond. Some examples of blocks of time include (but are not limited to) music, art, get educated, testimonial, movement, inflatable, and movie.

Kristen’s Block Party will be on Saturday July 11, 2015 from 3 pm to 6 pm at Broadway Christian Church in Lexington, KY (187 N. Broadway). Please share this blog to spread the word! All are welcome to attend. And don’t forget, you can donate here

#GoHomeDeray: The Coexistence of Unity and Protest

On Sunday June 21, 2015, #GoHomeDeray top-trended Twitter nationally for at least 14 hours. The hashtag included tweets directed at Deray McKesson, an activist who became well known after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. You may recognize him from one of his more popular CNN interviews that took place in Baltimore, MD after the death of Freddie Gray. Since last August, Deray has been present in various cities to seek justice in incidents where racism is speculated.  The tweets were largely from Deray derayadversaries who bluntly shared their opposition to his presence in Charleston, SC.

Those participating in the trending topic appear to believe that Deray and/or his views promoted the “riots,” looting, and other unrest that has occurred in response to various incidents across the country. They feel that Charleston is coping with its grief with unity and forgiveness, and that Deray’s presence is not needed or wanted.

This blog is not necessarily to defend Deray, but more so to discuss the repetition of history, disconnect, and irony demonstrated by #GoHomeDeray. It will also discuss how unity and protest can coexist.

image 1Unfortunately, it is not new for black people confronting racism to be told to “go home” by white people who prefer they just leave it alone. Black people were often image 2told to “go home” when they called out racism and injustice, and advocated for their rights during the Civil Rights Movement. Even Dr. Martin  Luther King, Jr. was told to “go home” in the Mason City Globe-Gazette in September 1965. While this is not the first time for this “go home” rhetoric, this may be the first time we’ve seen it done via social media. #GoHomeDeray makes us wonder how far we’ve actually come.

image 4Additionally, #GoHomeDeray demonstrates that there are still people who do not understand black’s people’s plight and the issues being raised. The “riots” and looting that people do not want to see were not caused by Deray. They were caused by feelings of helplessness and pain; feelings that our society perpetuates (and has long perpetuated) through seemingly small and systematic forms of racism. Of course, I am not condoning this behavior. I am not saying that it is the right response. But in theimage 5 words of Deray McKesson, “you don’t have to condone it to understand it.” If we want to see the “riots” and looting stop, let’s address the root of the issue so that people will not feel so helpless, like they have nothing to lose. Instead of telling people to “go home” let’s work to address the actual cause and alleviate the racial bias that yields this unwanted reaction.

Many of the trending tweets expressed that there is unity and forgiveness in Charleston so they do not need Deray to be there. The unity and forgiveness is indeed positive and necessary. However, it does not negate the need to address the racism that caused this massacre in Charleston. It is amazing and beautiful to see the families of the 9 victims choose forgiveness despite this life changing tragedy. But if we allow that forgiveness to prevent us from addressing the racist root of this crime, we will have let those 9 lives be taken in vain and we are bound to see something like this happen again. For too long, this country has been trying to overcome racism in this polite, politically correct, “kumbaya” way. Well, there is nothing polite, politically correct, or “kumbaya” about racism so until we address this thing directly, and stop being afraid to talk about it, we will be as effective as an umbrella in a hurricane. Policies still need to change. Systems still need to change. Hearts and minds still need to change. So activism is still necessary.

Lastly, #GoHomeDeray is ironic. There is a contradiction in emphasizing unity and forgiveness while also excluding people from being a part of it. Shouldn’t we want to invite people into that unity? What benefit is it to make such a positive experience “invitation only?” It seems like we would want even those who have responded in less favorable ways to be there, so that we could model a more ideal way. Making unity only for a certain group or type of people is actually the opposite of unity– it’s divisive. #GoHomeDeray took away from what seemed to be a first step in coming together and caused people to question the authenticity of the “unity” in Charleston, reiterating the lack of unity in this country.

Both unity and protest (defined as “something said or done that shows disagreement with or disapproval of something,” Merriam-Webster) can happen. We can unite to support the families and Charleston as they grieve an event in our nation’s history that will never be forgotten. And we can protest the racism, culture, and systems that affirm mentalities like that of Dylan Roof. They can coexist, and their coexistence can be beneficial. Just maybe, unity will cause understanding of the experience of Black people in the United States, which causes understanding of the need for change and protest, which motivates people to join the protest, which then brings us back to unity.

IMG_31709 people have been killed. We should be doing everything in our power to ensure that they do not die in vain; that change and progress comes from their sacrifice and that of their families. #GoHomeDeray isn’t doing that.

Interview with: Aleidra Allen, Joshua Jones

ajACPA’s Confronting the Reality of Racism in the Academy

Interview with: Aleidra Allen, Joshua Jones (click link)

Aleidra and Josh were interviewed for ACPA’s Confronting the Reality of Racism in the Academy. They shared their experiences with #OccupySLU, a 6-day protest that occurred on the campus of Saint Louis University (SLU) after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. They also discussed the impact of being in St. Louis and SLU at such a time, the current issues of race in America, and the what colleges and university can do.

#BlackLivesMatters for Dummies

I am terribly frustrated to still see people “correcting” #BlackLivesMatter posts by commenting with “all lives matter.”

The problemIMG_3174 with “all lives matter” is that it is neutral. And Desmond Tutu said it best, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

I like analogies so here’s another one: “All lives matter” is like me bleeding and needing a band aid. So I tell everyone my problem and start the #AleidraNeedsABandAid movement. Well, my friends see my post, and instead of becoming allies of my movement, they start the #EveryoneNeedsABandAid movement, because we should keep things equal and get everyone a band aid, right?

Wrong. #EveryoneNeedsABandAid actually distracts from my problem and makes my movement about everyone, even though everyone is not bleeding and in need of help like me. No, you are not included in my movement but why do you need to be if you are not bleeding? Why does my issue have to be made to include you when I’m the one that is bleeding, not you?

My advocacy for myself is no disrespect to you– I just need help and am trying to fix my problem. Would it make sense for you to be more concerned with advocating for everyone to have band aids (even though everyone is not bleeding) instead of helping me stop my bleeding? Is it appropriate for you to be more concerned with being included in my movement (even though you don’t have my problem) than helping me overcome my problem?  Why focus on getting everyone a band aid when we could use that energy to get band aids for the people who actually need them?

Joining my movement would not mean you are any less important or deserve any less assistance if you ever start bleeding. It would just mean that you are willing to step outside of your privilege of not needing a band aid right now, to help me so I won’t need one, or this movement, anymore.

And there should be no fear in that. Because if and when you ever start bleeding, I’ll be there to help you get a band aid, just like you did for me. But what you should fear is me never getting a band aid because you preferred to advocate for everyone, and never directly said #AleidraNeedsABandAid.

#BlackLivesMatter .

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