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Advocacy in Action
Posted on March 31, 2016, by GAPMP
By Jane Grillo
I regularly read The Mighty, a website which proudly proclaims, “We face disability, disease and mental illness together,” and am often inspired by what I see there. And, I prove it by sharing the content on my Facebook page and other places.
Recently, my Facebook feed went crazy with folks (many of them parent mentors) sharing this story about Beth Hiatt, a 13 year old girl who had written a blog about her life as a person with Autism.
I was about to repost it, and then…. I got an idea.
Why not reach out to the parents of this young lady and get some perspective? Beth’s mom Beccy replied!
In this process, I have learned some very interesting things. For one, I learned about a Facebook page, Autistic Not Weird, run by a former SPED teacher, who is diagnosed on the spectrum herself.
The second thing that interested me about this is, when I asked where Beth was from, the answer was Cornwall, England. So, looks like our humble little website is going for a little hop across the pond to tell this family’s story. Cheers!
Q: How have you supported self advocacy?
A: We have always told Beth to celebrate her differences and to not be afraid to stand out. We are proud of everything she does (big or small) so this was just an extension of that!
Q: What has surprised you about your child’s abilities?
A: Beth is our only child. At first we didn’t think anything of her fantastic memory, writing abilities, etc. so we weren’t aware until people kept telling us otherwise. What surprises us the most is that despite the anxiety, etc. that affects her she just gets up and keeps going – she is brilliant.
Q: What advice would you give others?
A: We would say just go for it. Embrace the differences. Your child will probably never conform/fit in, make them happy with this and life is a lot easier.
Paul & Beccy Hiatt
Among the many folks who shared this post from The Mighty, there was this page: Autistic Not Weird. And here is a little from Chris Bonnello, the Founder of this Advocacy website, and the person who runs this page:
“I kept my Asperger’s a secret most of the way through my teaching career: partly through shyness, partly through fear of what others might think. Nonetheless, plenty of teachers I worked with figured it out anyway because of their professional experience with autistic children! The most rewarding part of my career was my time in special education, working with teenagers who were strikingly similar to me, only with academic learning difficulties and often low self-esteem. I decided to share my Asperger’s with them, as a means of letting them know they weren’t alone, and that autism does not limit them in the ways they may have been made to think it does. Those students were on my mind when I left teaching in December 2014- I realized I would never get the chance to do that kind of good for young autistic people again, unless I got up and did something about it. So I went public with my Asperger Syndrome and set up Autistic Not Weird. As a result of social media, I now find myself doing more good for more people than I ever did in teaching. There are vulnerable people all around the world who I would never have met without Autistic Not Weird, much less had the chance to help them or their children or offer any personal insight into autism from an autistic former teacher’s perspective! Possibly the best thing the internet has done for communities like ours is teach us that we’re absolutely not alone. “
Here is a link to the original Facebook post on the Autistic Not Weird page about Beth.
Jane Grillo is a veteran Parent Mentor for the White County School System and former newspaper editor. She currently serves the Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership as content manager for www.parentmentors.org.