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  • Wednesday, January 09, 2019 8:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In 1994, I decided to coach youth soccer.  I had just completed my M.Ed, Peabody College at Vanderbilt.  I had played youth soccer for the Y.M.C.A. in Atlanta from age 8 until age 16, had been to soccer camp at Clemson University and had actually earned a letter from my high school. So, I felt qualified to teach youth what I knew.  I was qualified, but I learned I was quite ready.

    The first bunch of guys I had were much smarter than me.  One constantly corrected me on my knowledge of the rules. When my directions were not followed, I showed my frustration by raising my voice and arguing with a group of 12 year old Ivy leaguers about who was in charge.  To say I lost control of the team that had much promise is inaccurate. I never had control to begin with. For whatever reason, I abandoned the concept of keeping the children engaged, and I completely ignored the parents, except to say, “This is where the practice will be.  Pick them up at 6:00 P.M.”

    I did not know at the time that I was on the spectrum, but I was aware of being socially awkward. I tried to circumvent this weakness by not involving the parents in any of the team decisions.  The youth had named the team a code word that turned out to be completely inappropriate. I received phone calls about that. Several players wanted to be goal keeper, and so I followed a parents’ suggestion to have the players try out.  This was disastrous. It was a recreational team, and I turned it into a MLS tryout, leaving one of the losers of the competition in tears. Finally, I was running practices all by myself, making kids wait in a long line to take their turn at the drill.  Inevitably, a fist fight among two rivals erupted, leading to several calls to my supervisor who said I had to go.

    But then this same supervisor talked to the parents, and quickly realized that I was put in very difficult circumstances, and my efforts, while unsuccessful, deserved rewarding.  So, he let me work as a referee. The next season, I became certified. Soon, I was officiating every under 6 game for that Y.M.C.A. I worked to show the same gentle kindness to the soccer tots bestowed upon me.  My supervisor took notice, and he decided to give me another coaching opportunity: this time to 5 year olds.

    In the season that ensued, in 1996 I worked to correct the mistakes I made two seasons before.  Though I ran it imperfectly (I had a disagreement about when to have practices with the parents), I began by having a team meeting with the parents.  I had a volunteer to bring Gatorade, one to bring snacks and one to help me coach the games. I made sure at least two parents helped me at practice. Now, I was running three different drills at once.  All kids had a ball with them at all times. They were not bored waiting for their turn. I asked the parents for any suggestions they had for improving our sessions. They rarely had any. Since the children were 5 and not 12, my authority was not questioned.  To them, I was truly a soccer god to be revered. Finally, I taught every player every position on the field and rotated them regularly so they learned all the points of the game.

    This recipe for success would last until 2012.  I have about 50 appreciation plaques decorating my bedroom walls.  By the time I gave up coaching to focus on disability advocacy, I had coached three different teams to an undefeated season, and I was named coach of the year at two different Y.M.C.A.’s.  A key part of all of this success was the patience shown to me by my two supervisors. Neither knew I had autism, because I didn’t know it.  But they consistently guaranteed my success by allowing me to call them as much as I needed.  I can remember times I called and asked the same question three different ways in the same day.  But my supervisor never seemed to mind. He could see my professional growth and the impact I was having on youth sports.  I think another big reason for my success was that I always saw myself in the kids I coached. I was both the misfit kid that had few friends and I was often one of the strongest players on many of my teams in my youth.  I made it clear that all the kids on all my teams were special. I helped them all to feel like winners, regardless of the game’s outcome. All of them got a personalized trophy at the end of the season. They were all assured of their importance of their success to the team.  My youth coaching days marked the foundation of my growing confidence in the working world. It is a key reason I decided to stay in Nashville all these years.

  • Monday, December 17, 2018 1:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "Parents don't make mistakes because they don't care, but because they care so deeply." - Berry Brazelton

    As a parent of a young woman on the autism spectrum, I'm realizing there's a fine line between accommodating and crippling Morgan. I am forever tripping over that line. The Judgers only trip me more. The Getters keep me trying.

    You see, there are two Morgans.  The one I see at home is confident and assured, able to express her wants and needs most of the time, able to create, and even crack a dry joke.

    Then there is the Morgan out in public.  The one that tears at my heart, because she's so anxious about "Too Many Friends", uncomfortable places, not enough schedule, too much schedule,... She has two reactions to the stress of public gatherings.  One is to loudly announce her discontent to everyone, and the other is to completely shut down.

    A while back, Morgan participated in an exhibition basketball game.  Things were just a little noisy and chaotic.  She squeezed her eyes shut, and lowered her head to disappear.  I watched from a distance as peers passed her by, moving on to others who met them with smiles.  Morgan's self isolation continues to cost her so many opportunities.  Whenever this happens, everything in me wants to jump in and rescue her (and I have on several occasions), but I realize there's going to be a time when I'm no longer able to be that link of understanding between her and the world.  In order to make it out there, she will have to somehow find it within herself to reach back to those who reach out to her.  Daily prayers go up for her social graces, and others' understanding.

    Thankfully, we had a successful event recently, which gave me a little renewed hope.  Morgan was asked to pass out programs for a community gathering with Borderless Arts Tennessee.  She was given an active roll, and rose to the occasion.  She also sat along side friends to do a little creative activity.  Later, when she announced she was "Tired and All Done", friends gave a knowing smile.  Morgan was asked to help present a couple of awards, and continued to hang with a little encouragement.  She even managed a smile for the camera, in the middle of her protests. 

    I. Just. LOVE. the Getters, and I'm most thankful for the Knowers, like Dr. Temple GrandinEmelyne Bingham, and other amazing women on the spectrum for reminding me to continue to challenge Morgan.

    In my parenting experience, I've had many proud moments, and some very humbling ones. When our children are flying high, we can be tempted to pat ourselves on the back, thinking we've got it all together.  In those times of pride, shame on me if I'm ever a Judger of another parent, who's loving their child the best way they know how.  "But for the grace..."

    Until Next Time,

    Know The Hope!


  • Tuesday, August 28, 2018 8:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "There is something to be said for sitting still and letting things come clear, the way morning fog burns off the lake." - George Witte

    OJ and sunshine

    Sitting here, with a glass of orange juice, nursing a summer cold. There's a beautiful blue sky today. Hoping a little sunshine, and sunny thoughts, will clear this head fog

    Bristol viewIn early August, Allison treated her dad to a getaway to celebrate his 60th birthday. They took a trip to Bristol, or as Morgan puts it, "Around the circle, ready to race!" They had been planning this for a few months. Allison found a little place, with a peaceful view, not far from the race track.

    A friend gifted Rudy with some great tickets on the start-finish line. The week before, weather forecasts were not looking so good.  I could tell dad was getting in the dumps, thinking the race might not happen. Morgan and mom were sending up lots of weather prayers.  Thankfully the clouds broke just in time for the race.  The timing couldn't have been better.  That's how God works.


    Rudy and Allison have always had a special bond.  They're both hard workers, loyal to a fault.  They give their best on the job, and that gives them precious little time for times like these.  It was a gift for me to see them enjoying this time together; a long drive with time to catch up, a low-tech getaway above the clouds, good food for their bellies and their souls, and of course Bristol Baby!

    When any of us get too caught up, for too long, in the day to day duties, we can find ourselves in a fog.  So thankful for this break in the weather for Rudy and Allison.

    Until Next Time,

    Know The Hope!


  • Friday, June 22, 2018 9:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "You cannot put the same shoe on every foot." - Publilius Syrus

    I am a serious "Lefty".  I remember sitting in right handed desks at school, with my elbow awkwardly hanging off, as I wrote.  The teacher noted my work was "correct, but messy" most of the time.  There was just no way to write from left to right without smearing the lead across the page.  But I loved to write, so the side of my hand stayed silver gray, with creases from the spiral of the notebook.

    Learning to play left handed sports back then was more challenging for me.  When playing baseball, I remember the coach telling me, "Just watch everyone else and do the opposite".  That advice was about as helpful as it sounds. 

    Below; Morgan and her "Lefty" swing.  Photo by Dad


    Those memories from my elementary years, as insignificant as they may seem, still whispered "You don't fit".  As a teenager, I decided on my own not to tell my guitar teacher I was left handed.  I learned to play right handed, because I didn't want to be "a problem".  The lack of understanding on everyone's part back then, gave me some first hand experience in the importance of accommodating learning differences.  It's also given me a tender spot for anyone who feels a little out of step with the crowd.

    My daughters, Allison and Morgan, also happen to be "Lefties".  As their mom, I've tried to help them realize early on what a waste of energy it is to chase everyone else's normal.  Instead, I hope they are each able to find what best fits them personally, in learning and in life, so they can be their personal best.

    Cinderella's slipper was perfect for Cinderella.  Find the life-shoe that's just right, and Left, for you. 

    Above; Allison creating a little left handed masterpiece, and Morgan showing off her "comfy tennis slipper shoes".

    Until Next Time, Know The Hope!


  • Monday, April 30, 2018 9:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather that dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.” Barbara Bush

    In the earlier years, I remember praying for God to "fix" Morgan for me.
    As I grew a little, I prayed for God to "fix" Morgan for her.
    Now, after all these years, I see the lives she's touched, the hearts she's softened,... especially mine, and I realize she was NOT the one who needed fixing.


    I was so thankful to have the opportunity to share our family's journey with autism recently on Witfromwhitt Radio podcast.  Thank you for listening.


    Until Next Time,

    Know The Hope!


  • Monday, April 23, 2018 10:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Contributed by: Kristen Jeter

    Deficient/Deficiency is defined as “the quality or state of being defective or of lacking some necessary quality or element” by the Merriam Webster dictionary.

    On its own it is a harmless word. When used to describe children with autism, by a friend, well that’s more than hurtful.

    And I was angry! As a single mom to twins, who happened to both have an ASD diagnosis I’ve been angry before, I’ve been insulted before. And I’ve been lucky enough to be supported by most of my friends and family. I always tell my girls to try and find the good in a situation. So, instead of continuing to be angry with my former friend, I decided this was a great opportunity. After all, April is Autism Awareness month! So here are 5 DO’s and DON’Ts for supporting those who have a child on the spectrum.

     1. DO: Be Supportive!: It’s easy...take the time to make a phone call, invite them over to your house, be a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Celebrate the great achievements! Support the success!

    DON’T: Be Critcal!: If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all...is a good rule of thumb! If you find yourself feeling the need to lecture, then STOP! We want to feel support from those closest to us!

     2. DO: Learn more and educate yourself!: Go to a therapy session, speak with a BCBA, contact those in your local Autism community. The more you learn and understand about Autism, the better!

    DON’T: Think research makes you an expert!: With technology at our fingertips it’s easy to get caught up. There are lots of articles, peer reviewed journals, etc. out there. There’s no better way to learn than in person, from those of us who live it. Remember we are the expert, advocate, and therapist for our own children! Ask what you should focus on, or how you can help!

     3. DO: Use kind, socially accepted language!: Treat others the way that you would want to be treated. Speaking in a kind, loving and supportive way is best! Person first language is a great example of this! “Your child who has Autism” as opposed to “Your Autistic child”.

    DON’T: Use discriminatory/derogatory language!: There are many words that are offensive. Words have power and they have meaning. Choose yours with tact and consideration!

     4. DO: Teach your children acceptance and understanding as well!: When we teach our children the true meaning of this, they turn into young teens/adults who are understanding and compassionate. They turn into people who will one day ask my child to prom, give them the job or be a friend!

    DONT: Let your child be the bully!: It happens so often. It’s not just kids being kids! By starting conversations now, you can help your children understand the importance of accepting those with differences! How would you feel if it was your child getting pushed on the playground, made fun of on the internet or mocked in the classroom?

     5. DO: BELIEVE and EMPATHIZE!: Be kind! Be patient! Be supportive! Put the “able” before the “disable”! Things will be challenging sometimes and that’s ok. There will also be amazingly profound and wonderful moments too! This is a journey and belief is a powerful thing. Having someone believe in you makes a difference!

    DONT: DOUBT or JUDGE!: Whether it’s doubting a person, an entire family, or judging a therapy style, food choice, or vaccination schedule...doubt and judgements should be left at the door! Just as you make the decisions for your children, we make the ones for ours. While everyone is entitled to their opinions, we need positive support, not doubt and judgements.

    Autism is the best thing that has ever happened to me. If we are going to use words to describe my twins, deficient would not be one of them! Words that I use to describe them are...inspiring, brave, joyful, intelligent, strong, and incredible! They aren’t lacking anything. They aren’t defective. They are perfect! Autism is a part of that. It has positively impacted not only my life, but the lives of those closest to us and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  • Wednesday, March 28, 2018 12:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This week's blog is contributed by Tammy Vice.

    "Home is where the heart is." - Edward Coke

    When Rudy and I first married, we lived in a 874 square foot shotgun house in south Alabama.  We spent most weekends sprucing up, and patching up, things.  We were so proud of that little place.  Only a few months after we were married, we learned we were expecting our first baby.  Thirteen weeks later, on the day the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded, I miscarried.  As I laid on the couch, watching the news, I remember thinking how quickly life can change for any one of us.  We hurt.  We cried.  And slowly we went back to rebuilding our lives.

    The following year would bring news that we were expecting again.  We spent a great amount of time and love, getting the nursery just right.  I stapled a flannel sheet, with brightly colored ABC's, over one of the paneled walls.   I thought it was genius.  Rudy wasn't so sure, but it grew on him.  Speaking of growing... When I was eight months along,  I was getting tired of hauling our clothes, and me, to the laundromat.  I talked Rudy into investing in our first washer and dryer.  That same day, I had a craving for Popeye's fried chicken.  He told me we really needed to think about our budget.  I cried.  We had Popeye's chicken for dinner that night.  Poor Rudy.  Looking back now, I realize he was just feeling the weight of his responsibility for our growing family.  He was, and will always be, a keeper. ❤  Allison was born in September, one week after our second anniversary.  She filled up that little old house, and our hearts.

    Pictured below; Allison with Mamaw on our front porch, and Allison trying to get back to the front porch.

    Soon, we were busting at the seams.  My mom and dad deeded us a couple of acres in the country.  We started out there in a new double wide mobile home.  We were really moving up in the world.    Rudy and I were both working hard.  Allison was enjoying her school, and doing well.  Just as I thought we had this parenting thing down, along came Morgan, and life got interesting.  Dad was now truly outnumbered.

    Pictured below; Life inside the double wide

    In 1995, we were excited to finally be building our dream house on the property.  We moved in with Mamaw and Papaw; Rudy, myself, one opinionated princess, one busy toddler, and a sweet dog named Barney, who had issues.  Thank you mom and dad!  It was a beautiful house, worth all the wait and preparation;  Four bedrooms, two baths, walk-in closets, a fire place, bricked in flower beds, and SPACE, Glorious SPACE.  Did I mention walk-in closets?  All of our boxes were checked.

    The thing is, a house is just sticks, bricks, and mortar.  A home is where a family lives and loves.  Every member matters.  After a short time in the new house, Morgan was diagnosed with autism.  We learned there was a strong parent support network in another state, Autism Tennessee.  Also, Vanderbilt University was doing research there, which was promising.  We said a prayer, and put our house up for sale.  In 1999, we found ourselves back in a little old house in Tennessee.  Although I still dream about walk in closets sometimes, I know we're right where we belong.

    Pictured below; Home Sweet Home


    Until Next Time,

    Know The Hope!

  • Monday, March 26, 2018 12:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    David Weekley Homes is giving back to our community with a donation of Joki swings to 12 families and minor drywall repairs to 5 families. We anticipate an overwhelming response to this generous offer. All interested families must complete an application to be considered. You must be an Autism Tennessee member to apply. Click on the link above for the application.

     Good luck!

    David Weekley Drywall Repair Application.pdf

    David Weekley Swing Application.pdf


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