Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Autism Empowerment Updates - Why Autism Empowerment, Why Now?

Hi Aspierations Friends,
Tonight I wanted to share with you a blog that I wrote for Autism Empowerment. Although I don't plan to regularly cross-post Autism Empowerment blogs at Aspierations - Come As You Are Let Your Light Shine, I thought this was an important one.
I've been having a bit of a challenge lately being able to translate detailed imagery and visions in my head into words that I think will make sense to others.  This isn't new to me... 
Tonight I hope I was able to convey a little of what I am thinking about in relations to our new non-profit, Autism Empowerment. I am so excited about the progress we are making but I sure wish it would be faster.  I wish we had the money to implement our programs now. I am an idea person and I need an execution master.  Actually, I could use a team of execution masters, especially if they had a forest of money trees ripe for the picking!
HERE WAS MY BLOG from Autism Empowerment copied and pasted in entirety. Your comments are welcome!
Let me just jump right in here and say that I am so excited about what is happening with Autism Empowerment in 2012. We just participated in our first health fair, we joined the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and we're a proud member of the Nonprofit Network of Southwest Washington. We recently submitted a grant inquiry for our Autism Empowerment Support Network and we're interviewing next week in consideration for a grant for our Autism Empowerment Access to the Arts program.
Although I've been involved with and have founded start-ups before, this is my first start-up experience with a nonprofit.  It has been an amazing process so far. Admittedly there is a learning curve especially when it comes to legalities and paperwork but I'm used to taking the winding road less traveled.  Bring it on!
Why Autism Empowerment?  Why now?  Does the autism community need another 501(c)(3) nonprofit? Why, yes it does! As you get to know me and our organization's vision better over the upcoming months, I hope you'll begin to get why.  I don't expect it to be overnight, although frankly I wish I had a magic switch that could make that so. Serving the autism, Asperger's and ASD community with services people can jump in and use immediately is what I feel I've been called to do.  It's my passion.  It's something I want to do in the present and in the future. I don't say those words lightly.  I walk my talk.
Autism is a huge part of my personal life although I don't let it define me. I have two sons on the autism spectrum. My oldest son is 12 and has been diagnosed with Asperger's. My youngest son is 5 and was diagnosed with autism shortly after he turned 2 and had gone through a developmental regression. About a year after my sons were diagnosed in 2008, I came to the realization (or should I say, I came to acceptance) of my own place on the autism spectrum. After a much more lengthy process than necessary navigating the hoops, loops and alphabet soups of the medical system, I was also officially diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Additionally, the three of us also have a wide range of sensory processing issues (SPD) and co-conditions. I won't go into that here but suffice it to say that we're building some pretty thick medical and educational files.
My husband John is the only one of the four in our immediate family not on the autism spectrum. It makes for an interesting dynamic and explains why for the first 16 or so years of our marriage, he thought I might have come down to earth from another planet.  (A nice planet, mind you... but a different one nonetheless.  Now I'm not sure if he came up with the idea himself or if I implanted... err.. planted it into his head but the way I feel sometimes in trying to communicate, real life and science fiction don't always seem that far apart.)
John had his own challenges growing up with undiagnosed dyslexia and knows what a relief it can be to finally put a name to something he had been puzzling about.  John is also incredibly passionate and driven to build Autism Empowerment into an accepting, enriching, inspiring and empowering organization for those on the autism spectrum and the families and providers that support them.  I couldn't have a better partner in start-up and in marriage. 
Right now we're both volunteering with Autism Empowerment while we run an online retail business at home from the side. We try to put in as many hours as we can when not with the kids, working or partaking in other life routines. It is our goal at some point during this year (sooner rather than later) to be able to transition to Autism Empowerment full-time.
Of course we haven't yet found a way for the bills to pay themselves so for now, we're doing both. As such, the growth at Autism Empowerment hasn't come as quickly since inception (June 2011) as I had hoped but I am a patient gal and truly believe that this is our year to let our light shine and connect with individuals, families, partners and visionaries who share our common interests. Patience, perseverance and passion... we have it and we hope our supporters will too.
There are other worthy organizations that are dedicated to medical research and providing services for those in the autism community. We're not a medical research non-profit so one might ask, what do you have to offer and why does the world need Autism Empowerment? Why now?
All of our programs are being developed based on the four foundational pillars of our organization, AcceptEnrichInspire and Empower.  Call it a motto, call it a philosophy, call it what you like but we are working hard to make sure these four concepts tied together will help define who we are and what we believe.  Because these concepts are so important to us and not just buzz words that sound good, I will be writing about them in depth separately.  I have a little blurb about each one on the Autism Empowerment homepage and in our downloadable community letter in case you want to check those out.
Each concept truly deserves its own blog but knowing my writing style, it's more likely to be a dissertation.  I don't suppose anyone has a flash drive they can use to download what's in my head into their brain? 
I'd like you to think about other non-profit organizations that you believe in and support. What sets them apart? Is it the cause? The mission? The leadership? The programs? The research that they do? The reputation? The style? The advertising and marketing? What makes you support them versus another nonprofit that helps the same cause?  
I can't speak for other organizations nor would I try to. We are not looking to compete with other autism support organizations. In fact we hope to have the opportunity to partner with those who share a similar vision and passion.
We believe in sharing our programs and support services with the world and plan to create programs that can and will be duplicated in order to reach the greatest number of people possible. Because we believe in giving back to the community we live in, many of our  programs will have pilot runs in the Vancouver, WA / Portland, OR metro area.  Other programs such as an upcoming radio show, online support network and educational webinars will be open to the world online.
We don't want to hide information, we want to freely share it with other individuals & families who are walking similar paths. We don't want to wait years to provide those in the autism community with help and strategies that work.  As parents of kids on the spectrum and as an adult on the spectrum myself, we know that when we have a challenge at home or out in the world, we seek strategies that we can put in place to help us in the present.  
We don't need uneducated critical judgment.  We need acceptance and compassion.  We don't need endless hoop jumping and having to run up great debt to try and get services. Although we appreciate research and participate in it ourselves from time to time, we want tools and resources we can turn to today while other strategies are being developed.  We want to make a difference today and we believe that Autism Empowerment can and will do just that. We live in the present.  Each day is a gift and we want to make the most of it. We like being inspired and motivated when we're feeling down and we strive to provide stories of inspiration to others as well.  There are days we can all use a boost and we believe each one of us has a special story to offer. We may have challenges but it is also healthy to celebrate our successes.
I wish I could take you on a journey inside my head because I know unequivocally that if I could share with you my detailed vision for Autism Empowerment and have the world see it the way I see it, so many would come on board with us and know that what we plan on developing is so worth the investment.  
That being said, as a woman with Asperger's, it's difficult to translate the big picture vision and full-length feature movies going on inside my head into succinct words that make sense for others who think differently from me to understand. As my oldest son who is a huge tech wiz would say, "you need a special interface and an updated processor with more memory and a better graphics card would probably help too..."
So true... and I wouldn't be surprised if he were the one to one day design it for me!
I will continue to work on my interface. Truth be disclosed, I am an idea person. If you're an execution master and interface genius, we could bring about positive change to the 1 in 1 affected by autism spectrum disorders.  Oh yes, I know the statistic quoted by the CDC is currently about 1 in 110 but if you're the person that is being impacted, you are the 1 in 1... and doesn't the 1 in 1 deserve 100% effort? I am the 1 in 1.  Are you?
In future blogs, I will be sharing my visions for the programs we are developing and plan to create.  We aim to develop and provide services and programs that can be utilized in the present for those in all ages and stages of life and in all areas of the autism spectrum.
I hope you'll consider supporting us!  Thank you for taking the time to read the Autism Empowerment blog today. I welcome your feedback and comments and appreciate you forwarding this along to your social network. If what I have written as touched you and you'd like to be a part of Autism Empowerment or have ideas that could help us take our programs to the next level, please drop me a line. If you know of anyone who might be interested in helping us invest in our vision and make the move to Autism Empowerment full-time, we'd appreciate the assistance. I'll admit that asking for money from individuals is a skill I was much better at when I was a little kid selling Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies but I'll be humble here and say that Autism Empowerment would greatly appreciate your help or the help of those you know who would believe in what we do. In giving, we receive...
Before I go, I wanted to say one more thing about our four foundational pillars: 
AcceptEnrichInspire and Empower
When you come to a place where you are at peace and accept yourself for who you are, where you are, you have a stronger ability to let your light shine and inspire others.  When you feel self-acceptance and social acceptance, you are often more willing to further enrich your life, thus providing you with new tools and strategies for empowerment. 
AcceptEnrichInspire and Empower tie together.  It's not just a "motto"... it's my way of life and it's our organization's way of life.
Thank you! 
Karen Krejcha, Executive Director

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