Recently my husband and I volunteered at the Second Annual Adult Autism Symposium in Chattanooga. This is the only such gathering east of the Mississippi River and so many of the attendees came from out of state. The creator of this event is Scott Kramer, program director and founder of the Centre for Adult Autism, Southeast USA (GCA.) The purpose of this organization is, “Empowering autistic adults and young adults and their parents/caregivers by serving as a resource center to provide mutual support, information & activities.” The GCA is a program of the Chattanooga Autism Center (CAC) which my husband, Mark and I volunteer regularly for as well as help to raise money by sponsoring Team Lexi at the CAC Walk every year.
Scott Kramer is an adult with Autism and founded this GCA, formally known as the Greater Chattanooga Aspies. But not all adults or children for that matter have the high functioning Asperger’s. In fact Asperger’s is now just part of the spectrum of all forms of Autism and not considered separate. When I asked him about the Logo, he explained that the round ball in the center represents a head of a person while the curved moon shape reflect open arms. The balls are being “tossed” between the hands. In Scott’s words, “This perception can be seen as an adult living with autism who (a) has hope (because of the arms being open), (b) is learning independent living skills (because of the juggling of various responsibilities), (c)is strong (because of the dark shade of blue).”
I learned the meaning of service at a very young age. Doing a “service project” in Girl Scouts was a given and the older I got the more sophisticated the service. At Sunday school, my teachers taught that giving to others our time and talents was good for all concerned. Not only did the person I was helping benefit, but I grew spiritually in doing the giving. It wasn’t until I was an adult and continued to volunteer for various organizations that I truly understood the meaning of service. One of my favorite quotes is by Rabindranath Tagore: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
At the symposium I met adults with Autism, parents of adults with Autism, speakers with knowledge to share, and vendors with goods to sell for anyone under the spectrum and vendors with Autism selling their art, inventions, and ideas. For example I met at young man and his mother who started an alternative baseball league for teens, age 15 and up and adults with Autism. He lives in the Atlanta area and now has leagues in seven states and was looking to start a league in the Chattanooga area. His name is Taylor Duncan. I took a few minutes of my time to hear his message and left with a heart filled with joy. What an inspiration Taylor is along with his mother who sat proudly supporting her son with his effort telling me that for the first three years there was only one team but members of a minor league volunteered to give the new alternative team tips and so each time they met they played scrimmage games. In 2018, Taylor Duncan was awarded House Resolution 1420 by the Georgia House of Representatives for his work in Alternative Baseball.
“…as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” (Proverbs 23.7) What we think and say determines our life experiences. Yes, the first time I met an adult or child with Autism that did not make eye contact when talking to me, it was a new experience. But I realized early on that they still see me and I see them and if I listen to them instead of watch them talking, I really hear what they are saying. I then can think in my heart instead of my head and be the person I’m called to be.