Saturday, August 20, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Husband - The Catch of My Life

Today I am thrilled to celebrate my husband's birthday with him and the boys once again!  Seems like we just did this last year!  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to JOHN!!!



Dedicated to his sons,
Dedicated to his wife,
Dedicated to God,
Dedicated to life...

My amazing husband is now 43!
The only one in the family who is considered NT
With three others on the spectrum,
sharing the same domain,
Our life is filled with spice,
Except the food that is plain...

My rock, my confidante, my amazing best friend,
You empower me...
You inspire me...

You appreciate I'm off-trend...

May your 43rd birthday be memorable and fun...
May the year ahead,
be an incredible one!

Let's fill it with laughs, accomplishments and inspiration...
Remembering each day together is cause for celebration!

Happy Birthday, John!





I Love You!
Karen

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sensory Friendly / Autism Awareness Hour at Clark County Fair covered by The Columbian

Hello Aspierations Friends,

I have some positive autism awareness and acceptance news to share tonight!

John and I took Justin and Ryan to the Clark County Fair on August 9th.  Going to the Clark County Fair became our family's first Pacific Northwest tradition after we moved from California to Washington state in July of 2007.  



This was our fifth year in attendance, however this time there was a positive twist.  The Autism Society of SW Washington and the ARC of Clark County collaborated with Butler Amusements and The Clark County Fair to offer a sensory friendly hour in the rides section.  From noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, right after the children's rides opened, a variety of rides operated with reduced speeds, dimmed lights and lower music volume.

Although the changes were probably not too noticeable to most unless it was pointed out to them, for a child or adult with sensory processing difficulties, making small sensory-related changes in rides certainly has the chance to make a positive impact in helping to keep a child regulated and not get overly excited or frightened.  More regulated children = happier children = relieved parents! Now granted, each child is different.  Slight changes in rides may not make a difference with every child in every situation on every day, however the fact that this event was put together with the intent to help children with special sensory challenges have a better experience gives families an opportunity to try and give their children an entertainment experience that they might have been fearful to try otherwise.

For the first time this was offered, I don't think it could have happened on a better day for our family. Lines were short, the weather was a bit overcast and the combination of these things together with positive attitudes made for an incredible experience for our sons who have sensory processing challenges and are on the autism spectrum with Asperger's Syndrome and autism respectively.  

Admittedly, our youngest son is a big thrill seeker soooo.... lots of spinning and stimulation would be right up his alley.  Although he might have preferred that his ride speeds been accelerated, he had no complaints. He made sure to get in enough sensory stimulation by going down the big slide over a dozen times in a row.  The only thing that slowed him down was the big climb up the stairs!



It was during one of Ryan's rounds going up the stairs and down the slide with Justin that we caught the eye of Marissa Harshman, a staff reporter from Clark County's local newspaper, The Columbian.

She was doing a story about the sensory-friendly event at the fair and had a few questions for us.  (How did we hear about the event? What did we notice that was different? How did altering speed, volume and sound on carnival rides make a difference in the boys' experience?) It was a pleasure to talk with Marissa and share a few thoughts even if I felt like I fumbled, stumbled and tumbled a bit.  The Aspie in me would have preferred preparation time and a written interview.  I wonder what she would have thought if I asked for that?  (I did not mention during the interview that I was also on the autism spectrum.  It isn't that I was ashamed, I just didn't find it relevant for her article.)

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a photographer snapping photos of Ryan on the slide.  Ryan was having a great time. At the time I thought how cool it would be if a picture of Ryan ended up in The Columbian.  When we were subsequently asked Ryan's name and age, I thought there was a very good chance since he's such a cutie pie and yes, as his Mommy I'm biased but it's still true!

After the interview ended, the boys tried out some different rides and Justin shared with us his thoughts of the differences between last year's experience and this year's.  We both appreciated the volume on the carousel being down. Everyone in the family appeared more regulated and in a positive mood.  In years past we still had a good time but there were a few meltdowns and areas where we could sense agitation from loud noise, long lines and higher temperatures. When there is lots of noise around and lots of people, kids and adults with sensory issues can become easily overwhelmed.  Many may not verbalize this or perhaps even realize it but it will often show up in their behavior.  



The fact that Butler Amusements thought enough of children with special sensory challenges to do something like this for them is very impressive and gives me a warm feeling inside.  We hope they will do it again next year and we hope that the idea catches on and spreads to other county fairs throughout the country.

We will advocate in the future through our newly founded non-profit organization, Autism Empowerment as well as through our personal relationships with various autism support groups for this to be the case.  It means a great deal to families with children on the autism spectrum and/or with sensory processing challenges.  

I suppose if I were to make one suggestion for the future, it would be that during an event like this that children be given a priority pass or wristband for waiting in line after the initial hour of the sensory event is over so that if they wanted to experience rides later in the day, they'd have the option to do so with a reduced wait time in line if say the line was over a certain number of people.  

In our experience on Tuesday at the fair, the lines weren't bad for most of the rides until it started to get a bit more crowded in the mid afternoon but should this event be advertised more widely in the future and should the weather be much hotter, it would be helpful to have this option available especially since I would expect attendance for this event to increase in the future given the positive publicity it received with The Columbian.

What a treat it was on Wednesday afternoon to be looking at The Columbian newspaper and seeing our son's picture on the FRONT PAGE!  Of course being proud parents we had to go down to the three nearest gas stations and drug stores to purchase multiple copies.  Granted the picture and story is online too but there's something about having the paper in hand and seeing your kiddo on the front page that makes the whole experience more exciting.  John, Justin and I were mentioned in the article and despite me not articulating my thoughts quite the way I wanted to, we were quoted as well and that was a positive experience as well.

If you'd like to check it out, you can see Ryan's picture here:

http://www.columbian.com/photos/2011/aug/09/27720/

Photo detail
Ryan Krejcha, 5, enjoys the giant slide at the Butler Amusements carnival. His parents brought him specifically for the sensory-friendly day at the fair when some rides operated at reduced sound, speed and lighting for one hour. 

You can read the article in its entirety here:

http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/aug/09/enjoying-a-quiet-day-at-the-fair-sensory-friendly/

You can even share it in different newsgroups and through Facebook. We thought it was pretty cool that the national Autism Society posted it in their Facebook group.  Ryan is famous! (Proud mama and her cub!)

Should you have a copy of the newspaper, Ryan has agreed to sign autographs in orange.  Although he doesn't claim favoritism, should you be a girl between the ages of 1 month and 16 32 100 years, you very well may get VIP treatment.  

Here are a few pictures from our family's day at the fair that didn't make the paper.  Gee, it's not all about us!!!  Hope you enjoy!



We received positive random comments about these Angry Birds t-shirts ALL DAY LONG!  People of all ages and backgrounds love them. We calculated if Kohls.com paid us a commission for as many times as we were asked where we got the shirts, we'd be doing pretty well right now!




Our whole family had a WONDERFUL day at the fair! Thanks to the Columbian for covering this, to Butler Amusements / Clark County Fair for offering the event, to the Autism Society of Washington and the ARC of Clark County for collaborating and to all the amazing families who attended and showed their love and support!.



In other Krejcha family news, I have something else exciting to share since it's been awhile since my last blog.  We also had some other neat news this week.  John was interviewed for a story that Scouting Magazine is doing on the Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge for Boy Scouts.  Because of John's work with Autism and Scouting through his blog and Autism and Scouting Facebook group and also because of John's personal experience as a Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge Counselor with Justin's local Boy Scout Troop, the writer thought John would be able to provide an interesting perspective and valuable insight for the article he was writing.  We're not sure when that will be out but I'll be sure to post about it.  I'm so proud of John!

Speaking of scouting, while Justin was at Boy Scout camp last week with John, he was able to earn 5 new merit badges and advance in rank from First Class to Star.  All this and he's going into 7th grade and not yet 12! Incidentally, we're not pushing him!  At this point, he did express that he would like to slow down a bit and enjoy the rank of Star for a couple years and get some more leadership experience under his belt.  We are behind him all the way!

I'll be blogging again soon!  We received a letter the other day from the IRS confirming receipt of our 1023 application. We are now eagerly awaiting our determination letter from the IRS so that we can be granted 501 (c)(3) tax exempt status for our newly founded non profit organization, Autism Empowerment.  We will be in start-up stages for awhile, especially since we're both still running Count Your Beans Dolls & Bears and have a doll show with Marie Osmond coming up later this month.

While we await our letter from the IRS and eagerly prepare to fundraise and apply for grants, we're developing the framework for a variety of innovative and empowering programs that will serve individuals and families affected by autism spectrum disorders throughout our region and nationwide.  I will describe our plans to you in a future blog!  Remember our name, Autism Empowerment!

Life has been extremely busy at the Krejcha family house this summer and although it may seem a bit inactive if you're reading my blog, lots of stuff is going on behind the scenes and I look forward to sharing more with you again soon!

Best wishes for an awesome weekend!
Karen