Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving (in an Autism / Asperger Friendly House)



Twas the night before Thanksgiving,
And all through the house,
There was cooking and cleaning
ME???  It was my spouse!

We were preparing for guests
on Thanksgiving Day,
We don't usually entertain,
Anxiety was on display...

Our Thanksgivings are normally peaceful
But there was sure to be noise...
With football, two gals,
And six charming boys...

Preventing meltdowns was on my mind,
Since we were changing our tradition,
How would our boys react
To an unpredictable position?

Would our guests find it odd,
If our youngest took off his clothes?
Would they have a sense of humor
Listening to endless Sprout shows?

Would the meltdowns tonight
be a sign of tomorrow
or would happiness and peace
replace frustration and sorrow?

As I looked around the room,
My youngest son flew in
Wearing an Angry Birds costume
He was happy again within...

My oldest was playing chess
Making moves like a winner
He was excited for next day's friends
and promised to eat something at dinner.

I said a little prayer
Asking for strength and grace
Acceptance, a sense of humor
A safe Thanksgiving place...

I had so much to appreciate,
A spectrum family to love,
Acceptance from true friends,
Blessings from above...

Even though I was nervous
Wasn't good at chit-chat,
I knew Thanksgiving would be memorable
Something special to look back at!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Krejcha family to yours!  

This will be our first time EVER when our family has had guests in our home and entertained on Thanksgiving. Should be an adventure!  

My Thanksgiving wish for you...

May you feel accepted and enriched.
May you receive through the act of giving.
May you inspire others with your actions.
May you let your light shine!

Love,
Karen

Let me know your Thanksgiving plans below!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Aspierations Blog now has a Facebook page

Hi Aspierations blog friends!

The writing bug is hitting me again, folks.  If you check the dates of my blog postings, you'll see I come and go in streaks. I might post 20 blogs in one month and then go another two or three months with just a few.

Of course at this time of year, it's hard to find the amount of time to write that I'd like to. To pay the bills, my husband and I own an online retail business named Count Your Beans Dolls, Bears & Collectibles. From now until about the 20th of December is when we work crazy hours to try and make enough income to help carry us through during slower times.  We sell a lot at eBay and Amazon and through our website as well.  We work long hours most days but during the holiday period, it gets incredibly nuts. I'm not complaining, it's just the nature of the industry.

So here is where I have a daily dilemma in how to manage my time. John and I started up a 501(c)(3) public charity earlier this year called Autism Empowerment. This is where John and I eventually envision ourselves working full-time and if I had the financial resources, I'd be doing it full-time now.

I think about it every day and try to spend at least an hour working toward that goal. Right now we're happily unpaid volunteers but there will come a point sometime in 2012 when I believe we'll be able to start and transition. I'll be writing lots of grant proposals along the way and figuring out creative ways to fundraise, develop connections and try and partner with other organizations that have similar missions and ideals.  Of course some angel donors would help as well but I have faith that will come in time as we build our reputation and prove our credibility and integrity.

Please feel free to check out our website with the understanding that at this point, it is very bare basics, a vision in the making.  As I've mentioned previously, the four foundational pillars of Autism Empowerment are Accept, Enrich, Inspire and Empower. We will be developing and building our programs and resources upon that strong foundation.

I will be writing a separate blog for Autism Empowerment and am trying to figure out the best venue for that. For now, it's at the website but I may have it hosted at Blogger or WordPress in the future.  Regarding Aspierations - Come As You Are, Let Your Light Shine, I will be continuing to blog here.  Although I expect some overlap in content, I will keep Aspierations separate because I still want a personal place to come and share whatever I feel like sharing at the moment.

Today in addition to playing around a bit with the backgrounds and design of the Aspierations blog, I set up a Facebook page for Aspierations - Come As You Are, Let Your Light Shine. The purpose of the Facebook page is to post little blurbs, thoughts or links during those times when I have something I want to share but don't have time to write an entire blog.

I invite you to come check it out.  It's new as of 11/17 so there aren't many "likes" yet but I hope you'll come by occasionally and if you like what you read, give me a "like".

Since I'm already requesting plugs, I just recently added a new badge to Aspierations as well. By clicking on the badge and then clicking on the BN button at the page you're taken to, you'll help the Aspierations blog move up in ranking and we'll be able to spread autism awareness, acceptance, enrichment, inspiration and empowerment to more people!  Please help us in our mission!

autismblogs.org

Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Happy World Kindness Day - Pay It Forward through the Autism Community and the World

Hello Aspierations Blog Visitors,

I hope you're having a pleasant day today wherever you are in the world.  Today is November 13th, 2011 also known as World Kindness Day.  Were you aware?  Would you like to be?  Well if you read this blog, you're going to be, so enjoy the ride!

The Mission…
The mission of the World Kindness Movement (WKM) is to inspire individuals towards greater kindness and connect nations to create a kinder world. The WKM encourages individuals of all nations to set up their own kindness movements. It is also actively seeking kindness movements to join the WKM. Currently, membership stands at 18 kindness organizations with representation from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dubai, England, India, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Scotland, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the USA.

http://www.worldkindness.org.sg/

In my opinion, the world can certainly use more kindness... and acceptance... and tolerance.  It starts at home. It starts with me. It starts with you.  Today and tomorrow may we look beyond ourselves and beyond the boundaries of our city, state and country.  May we look beyond our culture, our race and our religion and realize that we are citizens of the world, beautiful people from the inside out. We are able and meant to do good works.

Spreading love through random acts of kindness really can make a difference in people's lives. You may find that as you set out to do a kind act (perhaps anonymously) for another without looking for recognition or glory that a couple things will happen.  One... you'll be making a positive difference in someone else's life and give that person confidence and faith that there are kind people in this world.  Two... you'll feel a special joy inside, one that is much richer than any tangible reward.

Something funny happened today. Shortly after I was reading about World Kindness Day and trying to think of a way that our new non-profit Autism Empowerment could participate in the coming years ahead, my youngest son yelled from downstairs asking everyone to "come quickly and take a look out the window!!"

There in our front yard and also in yards throughout our neighborhood, we saw teenagers raking and cleaning the leaves and yards of the neighborhood residents.  At this time in Washington, that is a lot of wet leaves!  In fact our boys were just playing in them yesterday!



What a kind and thoughtful turn!  Seeing what those kids were doing made me smile. It also made me stop and think what I could do to make a positive difference in someone else's life today, tomorrow and the day after that.

To start, I want to share a couple links with you in case you or your family would like to get involved with the World Kindness movement.  I think it's a terrific opportunity for kids and adults on and off the autism spectrum to show that each one of us has the power to create positive exchanges and events in the lives of those we love as well as in the lives of complete strangers.

No matter what your ability, each one of us has the power to do something positive

Personally, I enjoy performing acts of kindness anonymously and a few years ago I picked up some free Smile cards from HelpOthers.org.  The boys and I have had lots of fun finding ways to give them out.

Maybe you'd like to give it a try?


http://www.helpothers.org/

There is also an organization in Australia doing something similar with Ripple Kindness cards.

DID YOU KNOW: It is said that if you perform two acts of kindness a day, and the recipients of that kindness go on to perform two acts of their own, more than a thousand acts of kindness can been shared in just 10 days. But if each of those same people shared five acts instead of two, more than 19 million acts of kindness could be shared in just 10 days! 

http://www.rippleeffects.com.au/RippleCards.html

Do you need some ideas to inspire you?  Do you want to read stories of other's acts of kindness?  Believe me, if you go and read those stories on a day when all it seems we hear on the news is negativity, it will truly lift your spirits.  Try making a daily choice to put yourself in a positive atmosphere and live your life with kindness, integrity and accountability.  It will rub off on others and it will be a great example to those around you.

Over 41,000 people "Like" the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation at Facebook. Their foundation inspires people to practice kindness and pass it along to others.

http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/

If you've never seen the movie "Pay It Forward" with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment, I also recommend checking it out as it was the inspiration for a number of kindness movements.

We are all capable of doing kind deeds and good works. It often starts just with a smile. Never underestimate the power of a genuine smile or a kind hello to a stranger to help lift his or her mood.  There have been many times in my life when I was feeling down or lonely and someone else's kindness helped me get out of my funk and lift my spirits.

We all have hard and challenging days and events happen in our lives.  It's part of the human experience. I have found that one way to help me get out of my place of challenge is to keep the faith and turn the adversity around by trying to make a positive difference somewhere else.  Oftentimes when we can take the focus off ourselves and work on positive projects, uplifting tasks and empowering others, we find in the end that we are inspired and empowered too.  The four foundational pillars of Autism Empowerment are Accept, Enrich, Inspire, Empower but the value system and philosophy we embody can be applied to anyone's life.

So if you're feeling in the mood or even if you're not, make sure to bookmark some of these links and check them out:

http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/Resources/Kindness-Links/

Also, we designed this logo earlier in the week but as I was looking at it today, I realized the Autism Empowerment logo actually fits in quite nicely with World Kindness Day so I'm sharing it here below:

We're spreading "Accept, Enrich, Inspire, Empower" to the four corners of the world. Come join us!

Thanks for stopping by. By visiting this blog today, you actually paid a special kindness to me... so thank you!  I will do my best to pay it forward!

Karen 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Autism Empowerment's Autism and Scouting Training

Hello Aspierations Friends,


Yesterday was a big day for Autism Empowerment.  My husband John Krejcha who blogs at Life and Times of John Krejcha and Autism and Scouting successfully offered his first two training classes: A Grab Bag of Tricks: Support Scouts with Autism, Attention and Sensory Issues" at the Cascade Pacific Council Boy Scouts of America Program and Training Conference in Beaverton, OR on Saturday, November 5th, 2011.  He was expecting about 40 people in both classes and ended up with about 60.  Additionally, approximately 400 - 500 people received a copy of his presentation on CD.  As this information makes its way back to various packs and troops throughout Oregon and SW Washington, we hope it will raise acceptance and awareness. We hope leaders will feel enriched and inspired. We hope they will use the tools and tips to help empower themselves and the scouts in their organizations.





In speaking with John afterwards, he believed and emotionally felt that both training sessions were a total success.  He's already been invited back for next year and now that he has these first two sessions under his belt (a visual which doesn't make logical sense to me as an Aspie but I still know what the idiom means), he is ready for more.  I am SO VERY PROUD of him as his wife, his friend, the mother of his children and as a representative of Autism Empowerment.  





John had been practicing his presentation for about a month and had been writing it well before that.  In addition to helping leaders understand some of the social and sensory challenges that many on the autism spectrum or with ADHD have and to get across the point that ASD presents differently from individual to individual, one of the main goals was to give attendees a variety of take home tips that scout leaders could use to help successfully lead and empower scouts in their troop or pack who were on the autism spectrum. John had 45 slides to present. Quite frankly, it could have been an all day seminar!


One good thing was that attendees knew that the slides shown would be on a take-home CD so they could focus on listening and take notes if they wanted. There was a lot of content that needed to be condensed into a 50 minute presentation (40 technically plus 10 minutes for questions) and unless you're used to this kind of thing and teach or train on a regular basis, it takes practice to work out the timing, the cadence and be prepared for questions along the way.  


I still remember John's first time presenting to me in our living room. As I sat back in the recliner relaxed with my journal and pen ready for note-taking, I knew that my presence that first time made him extremely nervous. It's not that I'm a particularly intimidating individual (ha!) but he had not had a lot of lengthy public speaking experience in front of adults and I know he wanted to do a amazing job.  He also knew how important it was for him to positively represent the Autism and Scouting program of Autism Empowerment.  By doing so, he was also promoting the four foundational pillars of the non-profit organization: Accept, Enrich, Inspire and Empower.  


This past week he totally upped his game.  I supported him in any way I could. Playing the part of a pretend audience as I listened to him give his training, I would interrupt him with questions during his presentation, sometimes on topic, sometimes completely random, sometimes supportive, sometimes a tad obnoxious.  I am sure at first he wasn't as amused at this impromptu "skills training" as I was but by the Friday afternoon before the presentation, he was nailing my questions left and right and was probably glad for the practice. Be Prepared, I told him... and he certainly was.


In his last trial run before the big day, John emulated a sense of confidence and sense of peace that I had not previously seen.  We had been praying for him to have strength, tenacity, humor and wisdom as he gave his presentation. As I watched him share each Powerpoint slide with passion, humility, charm, humor and wisdom, I knew his prayers were answered and that his training sessions the following day would be a success. 


Unfortunately I was not able to attending the training because I needed to be on hand to watch the boys. John was gone from about 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. and the longest we've ever had a sitter here is about 2 1/2 hours.  He did call in after each presentation and I was beaming with pride over his excitement and accomplishment in reaching so many that day.  We hope they will take back the information shared to their local packs / troops and share it among their leadership. 


I know John is looking forward to more training in the near future.  We realize this is something he could quite regularly throughout the country. As we get the word out about Autism Empowerment, earn some grants and gain public support, we look forward to the day when we can work for Autism Empowerment full-time. We are currently brainstorming on additional ways to reach more people and although I have submitted our first grant proposal, I will be writing more over the next few months.  There is a lot to learn when founding and starting up a non-profit but the rewards of reaching out and helping others is totally worth it and as I've mentioned on my blog here before, it is not just my passion but my calling and John feels it is his as well.  We don't say that lightly but we do say it with passion, faith and hope for the future. 


If you have a connection to scouting (former or past scout or leader) or are interested in the possibilities of scouting for a son or daughter who is on the autism spectrum (Autism, Asperger's, PDD/NOS included), I invite you to check out the following resources. I haven't gone into the meat of John's presentation here at Aspierations but will be doing so more in-depth on the Autism Empowerment website. (Aspierations is still my personal blog, although I know there will be overlap in content and I do plan on an Aspierations Inspirational program within Autism Empowerment in the future.)

For those who didn't attend John's presentation, we have uploaded 22 Scout Leader tips for helping scouts with autism, Asperger's or other autism spectrum disorders. You can read, print or download the guide here:  Autism and Scouting Tips (PDF) File.  Feel free to share them!
In the future, John wants to get his presentation on podcast and perhaps have an upload of the slides for others to view and use in their own presentations.  We need to work out the particulars but it is in the plans for the future. 
In the interim, John currently continues to head up Autism Empowerment's Autism and Scouting program which includes support and resources in a variety of forms with more coming!
The most active online group currently is Autism Empowerment's Autism and Scouting Facebook page.
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The goal is a dynamic and supportive group where parents, scouts (male and female, former and current), leaders and those investigating scouting for their children can learn the features and benefits of the Scouting experience.  You are encouraged to "like" us at Facebook and share with your friends. Our numbers are growing and we're happy to have scouters from all around the world represented.
While there, don't forget to join our Autism Empowerment Facebook Page:
We're also at Twitter through Autism Empowerment: @autismscouting and @autismempowermt.  If interested, I'm on Twitter personally at @aspierations.
John will be blogging about his training experience soon and I will either repost it here or you can find it at his Autism and Scouting blog.
Thanks for stopping by!  It sure feels good to be blogging again!  Two days in a row!  I'm on a roll and I'm not even a sandwich! (Badda bing, badda boom... or badda boo if that wasn't particularly amusing to you.)

I've missed you guys and I look forward to writing again soon.  If there are any topics you'd like me to cover, just let me know!
Best wishes for a great week ahead!
Karen

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Aspierations welcomes Autism Empowerment

Hello Aspierations Blog Friends,

Wow, it has been awhile since I've posted at this blog. In the interim it seems like Blogger made some changes so I need to spend a little time figuring those out.

I have some fantastic news to share that has been a long time in the making!

In June of 2011, my husband John and I filed paperwork Washington to found a nonprofit corporation named Autism Empowerment.  In July we mailed in our 501(c)(3) paperwork to the IRS and in September we received our 501(c)(3) public charity / tax-exempt status determination letter from the IRS.

Our non-profit is now on the map!  Now of course when I saw "our", it does not belong to me and John, although coming in as an entrepreneur from a for-profit industry, I'll have to admit that there are a lot of things that are different in the nonprofit world.

Below I have include a little about Autism Empowerment taken from the Welcome page on the Autism Empowerment website.  We invite you to check us out!

I will still be writing personal blogs here at Aspierations as time permits. I will also blog at Autism Empowerment.  Your support is greatly appreciated!

Please come like us at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/autismempowerment
Please come follow us at Twitter: @autismempowermt
Please visit our website and Get Involved!  http://www.autismempowerment.org

We are in start-up stages so if you believe in what we aspire to offer, we greatly appreciate your support!

Thanks!
Karen Krejcha


Autism Empowerment is an educational and charitable non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity serving those in the autism community. We are dedicated to enriching and empowering the lives of individuals and families affected by Autism, Asperger Syndrome, PDD / NOS and related autism spectrum disorders and co-conditions. 
Founded in 2011 in Vancouver, Washington by a family with 3 out of 4 traveling daily along on the autism spectrum, we are excited and honored to have the opportunity to service the local, national and international autism community.  Come join us on our journey! We welcome and appreciate your support and generosity!
By developing and providing programs, projects, support and resources to individuals, families, caregivers and educators that promote acceptance, improve life skills and encourage self-advocacy and empowerment, we seek to support and inspire those on the autism spectrum to reach their highest potential.
The four foundational pillars of Autism Empowerment are AcceptEnrichInspire and Empower.  
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Accept - We strongly promote the unconditional acceptance of those on the autism spectrum and with related disorders. By accepting each spectrum traveler for who they are, where they are, we are promoting both autism acceptance and autism awareness.
Enrich - Our goal is to provide educational resources, programs and tools to improve and enhance life skills for those on the autism spectrum as well as their families, caregivers, therapists and teachers. We aspire to make life more meaningful and rewarding.
Inspire - We dedicate ourselves to be a positive, uplifting organization that encourages and celebrates success in all individuals. We believe each person on the autism spectrum has the opportunity to make a positive difference in this world.
Empower - We strive to empower those on the autism spectrum to achieve a higher quality of life academically, emotionally, financially, socially and spiritually.
We are a publicly funded non-profit corporation depending on the generosity of the public to fund our programs. We offer a number ways to give and get involved! Thank you for your generosity and support. We have big goals and big dreams!
Thank you for visiting!  We look forward to having you back again in the future!