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An Interview With Armani Williams, The First NASCAR Driver On The Autism Spectrum

“Tell me I can’t so that I can show you that I can,” Armani Williams

By Ron Sandison

  1. What were are greatest challenges having autism?

I feel like my greatest challenges of having autism is the communication and social interaction. All my life I have been dealing with issues growing up but I have managed to steadily improve those tactics, being a little more proactive around other people and that’s going to help me in the long run as I continue to live my life with autism.

  1. How old were you when you begin to speak?

Good question, I can’t remember when I did. It’s been a long time since I was very little. I would say it was when I was 2 or 3 years old. It sometimes takes time before you can say your very first words.

  1. Did you have any sensory issues? If so, how did you learn to overcome them?

Yes, I had some sensory issues especially when I was young. And I still do today but I have been able to reduce those issues and overcome them just by looking at my surroundings and knowing what’s going on in today’s world. When I hear or see something that I don’t quite understand, I use the internet and research things on Google to help me understand certain things I don’t know. The more I learn about different things, the easier it is for me to translate the information to my brain and the next time it comes up it’s like,  “Oh, I have heard about this before”, or “Hey, I know what this is.”
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My Milestones – 2018 Annual Benefit Honoree, Steve Wexberg, MD

As an exceptional pediatrician with an impressive passion for serving his community, 2018 Benefit honoree Steve Wexberg, MD has dedicated the majority of his life to supporting local families through his every-day practice.

Wexberg has become a reliable resource for the autism community here in Cleveland, using his knowledge and authority on behavioral and developmental disorders to seek out new, collaborative solutions to support life-long healthcare for individuals with autism.

Milestones has been incredibly fortunate to have had Wexberg as a key player on the Milestones Board of Directors since 2006, lending his perspective and guidance in an effort to shape one of Milestones’ core offerings, the Milestones National Autism Conference.

“Steve has been passionate about the necessity to consider and plan for the medical needs of adults with autism. He has done so much to assist Milestones in creating an educational space for health professionals at the conference for them to gain ongoing medical education around autism,” said Ilana Hoffer Skoff, Executive Director of Milestones Autism Resources.
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My Milestones – 2018 Benefit Honoree Phillip Irvin

Phillip Irvin, a dedicated father of two and a true champion for the local autism community, uses his invaluable perspective to help others on a similar journey as his.

Irvin’s relationship with Milestones first started when his family sought resources to help his son. Now, Irvin is an active leader on the Milestones Board of Directors and has served as Milestones’ Treasurer, Co-Chair of Milestones’ annual Strike It Big bowling event, and on multiple committees.

“Phillip brings energy, enthusiasm and a fresh perspective to all of his involvements with Milestones,” stated Milestones Operation Director Mia Buchwald Gelles. “He gets so excited about helping families with autism and is constantly seeking to raise the bar with what we can accomplish.”

What has been the most rewarding part of being involved with Milestones?
Helping families feel like they aren’t alone in this journey. From the shock and disbelief of a diagnosis, to school and family support, all the way to work/college transition and beyond, Milestones can help families connect with resources and others who provide a sense of community. No one needs to deal with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) alone or to feel like they are alone. Every single block in every neighborhood in all of CLE is impacted by ASD and Milestones helps connect all of those single points into a widespread community.
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Straight from the Source: Raven Pressor, Living With ASD and Anxiety

Anxiety can be challenging for anyone to experience – it can keep you from doing the things you love, meeting new people, or often from pursuing new goals. Now imagine these typical hardships being paired with sensory challenges. Self-advocate, Raven Pressor, shares her first-hand perspective of experiencing anxiety alongside ASD and shares some advice on how to support individuals like herself dealing with this common comorbidity.

Raven, thanks so much for speaking about this personal topic. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m Raven and I’m 36 years old. I live with my parents, and my hobbies include video games, crochet, knitting, reading, and spending time with my cat and two geckos. I have ASD and anxiety, and was not diagnosed with ASD until I was about 24 years old.

How would you describe the feeling of clinical anxiety to someone who has never experienced it?
For me, it first feels like I’m a little shaky and edgy. It can escalate into a queasy stomach, racing heart, tight throat that makes it feel hard to breathe, lightheadness or dizziness, and a weird tingly feeling in my face and hands. These symptoms occur during a full-blown panic attack. There are also emotional symptoms too, like an intense desire to return home if I’m out (a fight or flight response) and generally afterwards, some amount of shame at the loss of control.
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How to Prepare Your Loved One for the High Holidays

As many families prepare for the Jewish High Holidays, it is important to consider ways to help your child with special needs have the best experience during the festivities. Milestones co-founders and parents Ilana Hoffer Skoff and Mia Buchwald Gelles are prepping for this hectic time of year themselves, and put together a quick list of tips to help you as you get ready for the upcoming holidays.

Familiarize your child with the holiday traditions – Specific music, phrases and foods help define each holiday. Begin introducing these to your child ahead of time so they become familiar with what to expect. Consider using one of the many recordings, YouTube videos, or wonderful children’s books about Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot to preview the holiday celebration. For example, if your child is sensitive to loud noises, prepare your child by listening to a video of the shofar (ram’s horn) in advance. The whole month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, synagogues around the community are blowing shofar at the end of their morning service and this is a nice opportunity for them to hear the shofar, in a much smaller setting, and be prepared for it.
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