Becoming Involved

While on a phone call about our Education Events the other day I was asked how I became involved with Autism and Autism Tennessee. Soon after that phone call I was asked to write this blog post. So I decided to use the idea from my earlier conversation for this blog.
I am the proud grandmother of nine unique and wonderful grandchildren—seven boys and two girls that range in age from a fourteen year old to a two year old. My answer to the question of how I became involved with Autism was that I have a grandson on the spectrum.
At the time my second grandson Ethan, who will soon turn 13, was diagnosed at the age of eight and the beginning of third grade, I knew little of Autism. What I had heard about Autism was children with language delays, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviors. And what I knew didn’t sound like Ethan.
Ethan was a loving little boy with a great imagination. He loved to cuddle and would readily shake hands with everyone. Ethan knew all about animals, who would tell you when other children would say birdie, no that’s a Scarlet Macaw. I remember having him, at the age of two, with me visiting a Kindergarten teacher and her being amazed that he knew the names for animals better than her students. He would talk my ears off when I would pick him up after school. And he cared so much for his little sister.
So when Ethan was diagnosed I went into action mode. I began to read all about Autism online. I still was not seeing Ethan in the standard information on Autism and having a hard time understanding how Ethan fit into all of this.
Soon my daughter Amy invited me to an Autism Orientation put on by Autism Tennessee. I was introduced to the Autism Spectrum which can range from very mild to severe. I learned that Autism is a developmental disability. Developmental disability means that some part of that development is not tracking along the way we would expect it to be and it looks different at every stage. I also learned that Autism has a prevalence rate of 1 in 68 and is 5 times more prevalent in boys. Well, I learned a lot of other interesting facts that night. But most of all I learned there was hope and that we were not alone on this Autism ride.
I began to volunteer at Autism events and met the people from Autism Tennessee. In August of 2015 I heard that the position of Administrate Coordinator for Autism Tennessee was open, I applied and I got the job! I started on September 8th.
What a ride! I am learning everyday on the job. One of the main things I have learned is “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,” Dr. Stephen Shore.
I see and hear daily more about Autism and I understand more and more the mission and need of Autism Tennessee.
I would urge parents, grandparents and other family members to attend one of our Autism Orientations to help you better understand Autism. I also recommend our upcoming Workshop: Grandparents & Relatives on June 16, 2016.

Sheila Shapley


    Carolyn Shindler | March 12, 2016 at 12:03 am

    We are all so happy to have Sheila on staff! It’s wonderful to have her perspective as a grandparent. Just goes to show that once you start volunteering, you’re hooked!

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