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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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Helpdesk – How Do I Protect My Wandering Loved One?

Wandering and elopement behaviors can pose unique safety risks for children and adults on the autism spectrum. Luckily, there are many accessible tools to help keep these individuals safe. Below, Milestones Program Director Beth Thompson highlights some great tips and resources to utilize if your loved one is one of the many individuals with ASD who are prone to wandering.

Take advantage of free resources – The National Autism Association is currently accepting applications for their very popular, free Big Red Safety Box – the box includes 2 GE wireless door or window alarms with batteries, a Medicalert pendant, bracket or shoe tag, safety alert window clings for homes and cars and much more.

Our very own Northeast Ohio Connecting for Kids also has wandering safety kits for local families. There is no cost for their kit and families can be connected with parents near them that may be dealing with the same elopement issues.

Contact your local County Board of Developmental Disabilities (CBDD) – If your student, child or client is struggling with behaviors that may pose safety risks for them it’s important you notify the County Board of Developmental Disabilities that the individual is connected to. County Boards of DD can sometimes assist in schools, homes and in the community to develop behavioral plans that will help your loved one stay safe.
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Ask the Expert – Mary Lombardo, CCBDD Travel Training Program

Driving is a huge factor of every-day life: we drive to shop, to get to work or school, to visit loved ones, and to access healthcare, among many other things. Now imagine if you were unable to rely on this mode of transportation. This is the reality for many individuals with autism transitioning into adulthood who are uninterested or unable to drive.

Learning to use other methods of transportation independently is a valuable skill for these individuals and can completely change the way in which they engage in and interact with their surrounding community (especially in a city like Cleveland, where public transportation is affordable).

The Cuyahoga County Board of Development Disabilities’ (CCBDD) Travel Training Program is available for individuals and families eligible for CCBDD services who are looking to develop the skills needed to safely navigate their community. The program provides on-foot, bus, UBER/Lyft and bike training, incorporating an initial assessment of every individual’s skills to see how to proceed with their individualized program.

“Within this thorough assessment, we are evaluating everything from how far an individual can walk without fatigue to number and landmark recognition, to phone skills, pedestrian safety, and stranger awareness,” said Community Travel Program Supervisor Mary Lombardo. “We also evaluate their street-crossing skills, knowledge of emergency procedures, and much more.”
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