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When you meet Julia, you SEE AMAZING!

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When you wake up to a new day, what do you see? Well, apart from blurry eyes and snotty noses due to sleep deprivation, congestion or insomnia, what makes you just, ‘want to keep waking up?

If you are in love, or still thinking of it, I guess you’re probably saying…’duh, my lover of course! If you are missing someone, you’d probably say…’dang! Oh precious beloved, showeth thy face!! Where hath thou!! (in your magical imaginary soberness).

And if you are like the group of people I meet weekly for support coordination therapy…’Aha! Slowly and gently rise from your slumber, squeeze your pillow and whisper into the hollow of your palm (oh please ignore your distinctive breath) and say slowly, ‘Today, I will do better, because I will See Amazing”

All said and done? Yes? C-o-n-g-r-a-t-u-l-a-t-i-o-n-s! You made it into another day! I am also cheering you on….’as I subconsciously cheer myself on too!

So, a couple of days ago, yours truly turned 45! Like…’yeah, the big 45! And I wasn’t sure if it was worth celebrating or not. Thank God for caring people around me who raised the roof and made it rock! #NoviUnconditionalLove

The much-younger me would have jumped on the next train to NYC to be consumed in the awesomeness of the city, sometimes, it’s just that train ride that does it for me, a more one-on-one time alone with me, myself and I! Just meditating  (I bet you can’t keep a city girl out of the city for long, how I missed my early years growing up amidst the hustle and bustle of a typical Lagos city amusement!) or as my parents have always dreaded all those years…’Oh, she’s started another birthday party in our living room without informing us! Phew!

But not this year… ‘This time around, it was all about Julia. The new #See Amazing kid on Sesame Street! Have you seen her? All cute and so peculiar…’representing every child with special needs…more so, Autism!

Why now? I’d ask myself over and over again. Yeah, why now Yinka?

Awareness. Acceptance. Because just as I celebrated my birthday, my childhood bosom friend and neighbor also turned 45! And happened to be the Julia we all never knew or could understand….’45 years ago!

Did we (children) know she had a unique personality? Or did we just assume she’d always been a difficult child with mental illness? Who knew about the features of a child on the spectrum then? I bet none of us did. All I knew was that I eventually got used to her mannerism as her parents were my God-parents who mentored me all through my sacramental classes at Holy Cross Cathedral then.

So, please meet Cecelia, 45, a daughter, a sister, a friend and childhood neighbor of over 40 years with autism, a rare one that survived the stare, stigma and slur but prevailed with the support of her loving and caring family in a society that condemns such ailment and is so quick to label, castigate and if possible ostracize.

Or perhaps, you also know a Cecelia?  a Julia of my generation, that stood out without condemnation even as ignorant as we were then of her uniqueness, still managed to join in the street play, still managed to attend mass every 6am with her parents, still managed to attend St. Mary’s convent, managed to get her feelings out even when she’s oppressed by lack of consistent vocalization techniques.

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Today, as I watch sesame street and I see how the world is embracing the new character of Julia – the chosen voice from the autism community, my eyes well up with tears and my heart is unable to contain the joy and excitement of knowing that finally…’every child deserves a place of acknowledgment and acceptance, and not one of isolation or disparity!  Thank you Leslie Kimmelman for the digital characterization and Stacey Gordon for the performance. Thank you autism community for starting the discussion.

When you awake to a new day, what will you be thankful for? I am grateful to God for allowing me to see amazing in every child I encounter. Tantrums and all, I still see amazing and acceptance first.

Yours in HOPE as I share Sesame Street’s ‘Meet Julia’

Yinka.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An awareness worth accepting: Embracing AUTISM!

An awareness worth accepting: Embracing AUTISM!

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Have you recently felt a kind of jubilation within your heart upon completing a project, a job or an assignment? Self-appraisal aside, how would you score yourself? Thumbs up or down?

Did you feel accomplished? Frustrated? Burned out? Confused about your career path? Are you still wishing you could have chosen a more fulfilling goal to work towards? Do you crave for acceptance or recognition from others to celebrate your victory? How would you describe your goal-driven-desire even without achieving any of the things listed above?

A couple of Sundays ago, right after church, my girlfriends and I (Kene & Tinunke) allowed our kids to play together in the lobby as we got carried away deep in a concerned conversation about career choices and how our African parents played a huge role in strict decision making for their children!

Hmm! Tell me about it! ‘We echoed amidst deep laughter, hip slapping and a cheerful pat on the shoulder as we exchanged stories of a confusing and oppositional remembrance of our struggle to decline our parent’s choices of profession for us then! Ah, you must become a Medical Doctor! Or ‘an Engineer! Or a Lawyer! …’Lol. Thank goodness we eventually followed our heart’s desire, then or later!

After decades of enduring and attempting to be like my mother, the civil service accountant or trending after the steps of my father, the articulate site developer/Land surveyor… ‘It just wasn’t my calling…’it didn’t last long! ‘Years of boring TD classes and assorted French curves with cursive initial of AOG engraved on both sides! Long sessions of Math tutoring when really my mind was focused on watching ‘Wild Rose’ Phew!

Many people are still living stress-filled lives because they never sought and discovered God’s plan and are still trapped in jobs and careers that simply do not fit into. Every day, they feel like the proverbial round peg being jammed into a square hole – isn’t that a painful and frustrating experience? Meaning…people never experience fulfilment in their work because they are in the wrong line of work to begin with just to fulfil other’s needs!

There was a passion hidden deep inside of me, yet unraveled, but always rearing its way out of my consciousness. It has to be something greater than me and I waited…and waited…and waited…’until I set my eyes on Peter, the cutest 5-year-old boy, recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder…I became his behavior therapist…’that was 14 years ago…He was my first client as He helped pave the way for my passion working with special needs children.   #LifeGoals

So, since we are in April, and its world Autism month, ‘ask yourself…’how aware am I about the term Autism, and how understanding or accepting am I, when I relate with someone with Autism? ‘Am I tolerant and capable of coping or communicating with someone on the spectrum? What difference can I make in the life of someone with Autism? Or how can I be useful to the family of a child with Autism?

It is easier to proclaim we care about someone with a disability or illness or even carry a banner of awareness when our hearts reject all the flaws that come with it!

We sometimes carelessly use hurtful and inappropriate names (crazy, weird, awkward, sickly child or dying woman) to label others just because we feel they are vulnerable or we think we are stronger than their situation? Hello? ‘Got perfect life?

Here’s one of the 10 things a child with autism would like you to know and accept, before judging…

Listen to all the ways I’m trying to communicate.

It’s hard for me to tell you what I need when I don’t have a way to describe my feelings. I may be hungry, frustrated, frightened, or confused but right now I can’t find those words. Be alert for body language, withdrawal, agitation or other signs that tell you something is wrong. They’re there.

Or, you may hear me compensate for not having all the words I need by sounding like a little professor or movie star, rattling off words or whole scripts well beyond my developmental age. I’ve memorized these messages from the world around me because I know I am expected to speak when spoken to. They may come from books, television, or the speech of other people. Grown-ups call it echolalia. I may not understand the context or the terminology I’m using. I just know that it gets me off the hook for coming up with a reply.

By Ellen Notbohm from the book Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew, 2nd edition (2012, Future Horizons, Inc.)

We all want to be successful in our chosen profession. Whether we believe in what we do or not. Our goal is to nail it and keep moving. Your office may be downtown or just inside your front door. Your work clothes may be an elegant suit or ragged jeans and a stained t-shirt. You may be paid in cash or with crayon drawings and sticky kisses like me! It doesn’t really matter because none of these things alone makes us successful in the work place.

Our success comes from the lives we touch with real acceptance…full acceptance of all the shortcomings! #Autism Acceptance

God empowers His plan in us, but when we step into our own agenda or a plan created by anyone else, we are stepping into and relying upon our frail, limited strength. We will soon be empty and stress will flood in, filling the emptiness with anxiety and tension. Don’t waste another day just doing the “next” thing. Take a long, hard look at your work, your job, and your agenda to make sure you are in the right place – doing what you were created to do in this world.

Do more this month, volunteer to be of assistance to a family with a special needs child, and love them genuinely for life!

Yours in HOPE!

Yinka.

Autism Care Network UK

Autism Care Network, Dubai.

 

 

 

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