April is Autism Awareness Month
April 1st marks the start of Autism Awareness Month. Each year, incredible individuals and organizations across the world take this opportunity to engage their local communities and raise public awareness about ASD (autism spectrum disorder). The purpose of this blog post is to do just that, create awareness across Verdi Commerce’s professional network while providing a path for our partners, colleagues and connections to help us make a positive impact. But, before we get to that, allow me to share just a bit about Autism, Neurodiversity and introduce you to my son, Jack.
What is Neurodiversity & Autism?
Neurodiversity refers to variation in the human brain. Neurodiverse (also known as neurodivergent) people experience, interact with, and interpret the world in unique ways. ASD is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.
The term “spectrum” in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity of the condition. Some individuals with ASD may have significant difficulties, such as little to no ability to communicate or interact socially, while others may only have mild challenges in these areas. Understanding the autism spectrum helps to promote greater inclusion and acceptance of individuals with ASD in our communities. By recognizing that individuals with ASD are unique, with their own strengths and challenges, we can create more inclusive environments that value diversity and support the needs of all.
Now, let me introduce you to my son, Jack. Jack is profoundly autistic and non-speaking. He is not potty trained, is completely dependent on my wife, Lindsay, and I, and likely will be for the rest of his life.
However, that is not what defines him. Jack is the happiest person I have and will ever meet. There isn’t a person he’s met who hasn’t fallen in love with him. In fact, I often tell Lindsay that if he were ever to find his voice, he would be one hell of a salesman! He loves to eat, to swim and despite all that he has been through he would gladly give you a high five given the opportunity.
Lindsay and I are blessed to have Jack. We are also fortunate to have a large support system for him, and for us. Between loving friends and family, we are not short on helping hands to provide a break when we desperately need it.
Unfortunately, that is not the case for most special needs families. Many are left on an island, without anyone they can trust to help, and at times, even to listen. This is why Verdi has chosen to support David’s Refuge, a non-profit organization that offers respite care, support groups, and wellness programs for parents and caregivers of children with special needs, including autism.
As previous guests of David’s Refuge Respite Program, Lindsay and I have experienced the incredible impact they have on families in need. During our first respite weekend, we met another couple who also had an autistic son. He was in his mid-teens and had significant needs. They had no other support system and that weekend was their first night away in over 10 years. Imagine that, 10 years without a night out with your significant other. It’s not difficult to comprehend the consequences that can have on a relationship. Recent studies have shown that families of children with disabilities are nearly 25% more likely to divorce than those with neurotypical children.
About David’s Refuge
David’s Refuge was founded in 2012 by Warren and Brenda Pfohl after they lost their son David. Their main goal was to pay forward the love and support they had received while caring for David during his 13-year battle with Batten’s Disease. What started in their home 10 years ago has quickly transformed into a thriving agency that provides respite, resources, and support to parents/guardians of children with special needs or life-threatening medical conditions. Through their mission, they want parents to be reminded that they are not alone, that what they do matters, and that their community loves them. The agency works to combat the devastating effects of caregiver burnout and connect caregivers to the resources and support they need on their unique parenting journey.
Let’s Make an Impact!
David’s Refuge receives no state or government funding and is currently experiencing unprecedented demand for services. Please join our team in contributing to this wonderful charity by donating through the link below. Verdi Commerce has pledged to support our collective efforts by matching contributions (2:1 for Verdi Team members and 1:1 for others) up to $2,000.
Each dollar provides the gift of hope and the reminder to a full-time unpaid family caregiver that they are not alone. The more we can raise, the more services David’s Refuge can provide!