Educate, Love, Support…

autismawarenessboys

The past 2 weeks have been very eventful for our family.  This month is the month of “blue”…. Autism Awareness Month.

April 2nd was Autism Awareness Day and the “Carter’s Friends Rock Challenge”!  The challenge became more than Todd and I thought it would be.  What I mean is – YOU ALL accepted the challenge!  We were overwhelmed with all the pictures sent to us.  I called several of my autism moms and we were all in tears!!  YOU ALL made that day special for each of us ASD families!  You may think that wearing blue was just a small thing to do – but you are so wrong… it was LARGE to us!  Showing your support to us and others by simply wearing or lighting your home up blue made us feel like the word… the awareness… the love… the acceptance is getting out there.  We had over 120 pictures sent to us… and in those pictures there were over 250 people wearing blue and/or lighting it up blue!!!  IS THAT NOT AMAZING!?!?!  The coolest thing was – a lot of the people that won prizes in the challenge did not know that there were even prizes… You did it NOT for the prizes… you did it because you care about Carter and you care about all others facing autism!  We are SO PROUD that you all accepted the challenge!    Here is the link to the winners of the “Carter’s Friends Rock Contest”….

Here is our Autism Awareness and Thank You to each of you video…

THANK YOU! THANK YOU!  AND REMEMBER… April is not the only month that people face autism…  it is every second, every minute, every hour… every day…    EDUCATE, SUPPORT, LOVE everyday… AUTISM AWARENESS!!!

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On April 6, 2014 I had an experience that I was very nervous about… but when it was all over – I have not felt love like this from a group of individuals as I did that day…

This is the speech I had the privilege of giving to my church family at First United Methodist Church of Pulaski, TN

Good Morning! For those that do not know who I am, my name is Shana Hibdon. My husband is Todd Hibdon. Todd and I both have been members of First United Methodist Church of Pulaski since we were children. We have two sons, Will and Carter, who are also attending and growing up in FUMC.

 

I come to you today to bring awareness to our church and our community. April is autism awareness month. Autism and the awareness of autism are very close to my heart. If my family had not been affected by this disorder – we would not have known much about it.

 

Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social, communication and motor skills. It can take a lot of time (months or years) to get doctor’s appointments and testing before a child can be diagnosed. There are different types and different levels of autism. Did you know 2 wks ago the numbers were 1 in 88 children diagnosed on the spectrum each year? The CDC announced on March 27th the numbers are now 1 in 68 children are diagnosed on the spectrum each year. The prevalence is growing and it is more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.    Autism is in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, yet are on average 4 to 5 times more likely to occur in boys than girls.  Family income, lifestyle and educational levels do not affect the likelihood of an autism occurrence.   There are currently 70 million individuals in the world with autism and and there is no known cause and no cure.

 

I graduated in 1995 from Giles County High School with around 200 or so classmates. As of today, I know of 5 people out of my graduating class that have a child on the autism spectrum.

 

When parents are first told “your child has autism” – every emotion you can imagine flows through their mind, heart and soul. So many questions take over “What did I do wrong?” “How do I get my child help?” “How am I suppose to feel?” “Do I tell people my child has autism?” “What does this mean for my child?” “What does this mean for my family?” “Will we be judged by others?” “Where do I begin?” What… When… How???? WOW!!!!

 

These questions went through my head and I am here to tell you, I have come a long way since the diagnosis. My child is brilliant, he is funny, he is artistic, he is simply awesome… anyone that comes in contact with him falls in love… many are not aware he has autism and if they are told he indeed does – they are amazed by him even more.

 

When my son was diagnosed… so many people told me that God doesn’t give a child with autism to just any parents. He gives them to the chosen ones that He knows will love, care and be their number one supporter – who can help them grow. I really didn’t understand this “phrasing” of encouragement – at first. When I hold my son and sing to him and his eyes are looking into mine – I see God. I see love… I see something so special. I can’t explain it. When that child smiles or laughs – I feel God. When he cries – I see God’s tears. When I have conversations with him – I hear God. I get it now… I finally understand what God’s plan was/is for my life… Will and Carter… to guide them… to cherish them… to give them a life that no one else can give them… to love them unconditionally… to help them with all of their struggles… to experience their happy times in life… to help them in their path of spirituality… I now know… Autism is not a gift – it is a journey that He has chosen for us to walk and He knew we would walk it because we love our child that much – we will never give up – we will never surrender.

 

I truly believe in my heart that our church and community needs to know how to welcome those with an autism spectrum disorder and any other disorder and disability. We can do what Jesus did in welcoming and supporting those with special needs, and helping them to find spiritual fulfillment and by supporting them and their families as valued members of our church and community. We need to be aware, we need to educate, and we need to let families know that we are a church that welcomes ALL people. We are all God’s children.

 

Educating our church and community on autism and other childhood and adult disorders and disabilities is an important ministry for our church.

 

If you would like to leave a donation at the chancel rails during the communion – the communion offering will go to Leg Up Therapeutic Riding Center. I spoke with Becky McManus, the founder, regarding our church giving the communion offering to this great organization – she got a little emotional and was, for a moment, at a loss for words. She told me to please let each of you know how much this gift means to her and to Leg-Up. Leg Up is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization located right here in Pulaski, Tennessee. Their mission is to enrich the lives of those with life challenges through equine-assisted activities. They help children and adults with autism and all other disabilities. I personally know what Leg-Up does for these individuals with special needs and I can’t express enough in words how amazing this program is. If you ever get a chance to visit Leg-Up – I know you will come away with an overwhelming sense of awe and appreciation for what the horses and volunteers do for the children and adults that attend.

 

I will leave you with a piece of scripture that I was reminded of when my family was first affected by autism.

 

John Chapter 9 1-3

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

 

Thank you to Brother Rick, Brother Brandon and each of you for letting me speak today.  My family truly does appreciate your love and support and I know so many others that are faced with autism and other disorders and disabilities do too.

I had to give this speech at both church services… and at each church service – I did break down.  BUT, with the encouragement from Brother Rick whispering to me “you are doing fine… take your time”… I was able to some how get through.   DO YOU KNOW HOW AMAZING MY CHURCH FAMILY IS???  They are SO AMAZING… the communion offering raised over $1000 for Leg-Up!  When I found out the total of the communion offering – I was floored and in tears!    How AWESOME they are indeed!!  How awesome are they to love my children like they do!!!  How awesome are they for loving Todd and I!!!  How awesome are they for being willing to educate, learn, support and love all those facing autism and all other disabilities and disorders!!!  How awesome are they to support a wonderful organization as Leg-Up!!!  God’s presence shined through everyone in the FUMC congregation on that day!   We are truly blessed to be a part of FUMC!

I will end with this…

Each of you that are struggling and/or impacted by autism and any other disability or disorder… please know that there are people out there that truly do care and will love and support you and yours through anything.

My friends and family are my support system. They tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear and they are there for me in the good and bad times. Without them I have no idea where I would be and I know that their love for me is what’s keeping my head above the water.   – Kelly Clarkson

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