Autism Awareness Month
I want to start out the story by focusing on present day. A flash forward of sorts.
We are the lucky parents of a wonderful 12-year-old girl. She enjoys her adapted dance class, ice skating, playing with her IPad, eating sushi and dressing up. We are in a good place in that we can communicate with each other, express our frustrations verbally and actually play together in ways I did not always think possible.
Knowing these things about my girl Cora is a big deal.
Looking back a few years, when Cora was 2 1/2, my husband and I faced our denial that something was not right. The typical baby and toddler books were not working. Our daughter was not “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and techniques from the Super Nanny reruns were failing miserably.
Eventually we found ourselves at a doctor’s office receiving an autism diagnosis. As freaked out as I was with the diagnosis, at least we now knew and could get a plan together to deal with it. I was eager to hear what the next steps were. I was looking for the doctor to give us a “treatment plan” like I had received from every other doctor visit up to this point. For example, “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning” or “Eat right and exercise.”
Unfortunately, that straightforward medical advice I was looking for did not happen. But we did get a web address to an organization called Milestones Autism Resources.
After coming to terms with the diagnosis and what it meant for us as a family, we found ourselves at the Milestones website. Keep in mind, the World Wide Web has many sites about autism, but for us, milestones.org was a bridge to help get our daughter to where we are today.
For example, we found local resources, references to services and most importantly a notice about a parent training series. This series became the foundation of that plan that we were longing for. It was at that Milestones training where we connected with other parents and realized we were not alone. We were presented with techniques that we could practice and use to reach Cora. We were shown how to motivate her, how to break down play tasks to small steps to build success and eventually implement techniques to help her expand her language and social skills. Most importantly, with Milestones, we were provided a safe place to ask questions and knowledgeable people to help answer them.
Over the next few years, through doctor appointments, therapy social groups, token boards, PEC charts, etc. — we are where we are today. And through my daughter’s hard work and support from Milestones, we can tell you that although it was not a journey that we asked for, it is a journey we were able to navigate because of the accessible and affordable resources and training from Milestones.
Even now, when I start to stress about what my daughter’s transition to adulthood will look like, I know we will not be on this road on our own. I know I can reach out to the phenomenal team at Milestones and ask them for guidance and support.
[Opening photo: multipleXposure photography]
A HUGE thank you to everyone who participated in our 5th Annual Strike It Big for Milestones Bowling Extravaganza yesterday at Buckeye Lanes in North Olmsted and Freeway Lanes in Solon.
It was a wonderful turnout at both locations and fun for the whole family with bowling, face painting, balloon making, food & drink, a raffle and appearances by Superheroes to Kids, Heroes United 4 Kids, Nina Jacobs, Slider the Mascot, Swifty the Clown, and Danimal Dan.
We also wanted to extend a tremendous thank you to our incredible sponsors who helped make our event a smashing success! Davis Automotive Group, Hickman & Lowder Co., LPA, Morgan Stanley, Ganley Subaru East, Robert W. Baird & Co., Fairview Park City Schools, The Irvin Family, The Mazel Company, Reminger Co., LPA, Sherwin-Williams, Swagelok, Westlake-Bay Village Rotary Club, and Westlake City School District.
We look forward to seeing you again next year!
Among the hundreds of ways Milestones provides support to families and individuals with ASD, our free Helpdesk is perhaps the best way to start. Our knowledgeable team features over 63 years of combined experience in the fields of Early Childhood & Special Education, Mental Health Counseling, Behavioral Intervention, Social Work and Coaching.
Our Helpdesk team includes Milestones Program Director Beth Thompson, Social Worker Helena Farkas, Teen & Adult Coordinator Haley Dunn and Coaching & Referral Specialist Monica Chukayne.
“The Milestones team’s persistence in gathering data and communicating with the district is inspiring me not to give up on my children’s needs as their skills are improving after these long and painful processes,” says parent Grace Lin-Fadel. “It is worthy to keep going after seeing the benefits for our children. I am lucky to know and learn from Milestones. I thank them for sharing their experience.”
Get to know the hard-working individuals who can help you get connected to schools, camps, tutors, doctors, therapists, support groups and more.
Beth Thompson, MSSA, LSW; Program Director
Whether students are college or career bound, Beth is instrumental in helping teens successfully transition to adulthood. She received her Master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University’s Morton, Jack and Joseph School of Social Sciences in Community Development and has extensive hands-on experience working with transition-aged students with autism. Beth’s favorite part of her job is when she can assist a young person in finding and developing their unique talents.
Helena Farkas, LISW-S; Social Worker
Before coming to Milestones, Helena worked extensively with the special needs population as a social worker at Metro Health Medical Center, where she helped families navigate the medical and community systems. At Milestones, Helena has coached families, individuals and professionals to access the multiple resources that promote education, health and independence. Her favorite quote: “If families are given enough time and information, they will make the right decision.”
Haley Dunn, MA, LPC; Teen & Adult Coordinator
Haley assists individuals crossing the bridge from school into the adult world. She is also has experience providing mental health counseling services to all age groups. She has a deep passion for connecting people to their community to live out their fullest life. The best part of her work is when individuals are able to become an advocate for themselves in order to be as successful as possible in their education, work, community and independent living.
Monica Chukayne, Coaching & Referral Specialist
Monica is dedicated to ensuring the success of those with autism and special needs reach their full potential and helping them to achieve lifelong success from birth to adulthood. As an Educator and Intervention Specialist she has a wide range of experience working directly with individuals with mild to intensive needs. She could not imagine a more rewarding and impactful vocation. Her favorite quote: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” -Albert Einstein
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Our 5th Annual Strike It Big Bowling Extravaganza is just two weeks away!
The event, presented by Davis Automotive Group, will take place Sunday, April 23 from 11 am to 3 pm at Freeway Lanes of Solon and Buckeye Lanes in North Olmsted. In addition to bowling, there will be food, face painting, balloon animals, a raffle and opportunity to learn more about autism.
Proceeds will directly support local families impacted by autism through Milestones’ free Autism Helpdesk, a service that allows families to call professional staff for guidance, local resources and information at each and every stage of their child’s development.
Hear about this fun-filled day from some our families who have attended in the past.
“Our whole family really enjoys the Milestones Strike It fundraiser. My husband and I love that it’s a comfortable and judgement-free event. And our kids have a blast bowling and just running around being silly. It is so nice to be with other families who are on similar journeys. We are really looking forward to this year’s event!” –Leslie Dorsey
“As a School Psychologist, I’ve referred many families to Milestones for resources in our community. Parents have shared immense satisfaction with the information they’ve received over the years. The Milestones office and website provides functional and helpful information for parents, family members, guardians, individuals with ASD, educators, administrators, medical & legal professionals and safety professionals (police & fire departments) that is extremely valuable. I find the yearly conference to be beneficial as well and thoroughly enjoy the myriad of sessions available. I’ve learned SO MUCH over the past 10+ years and enjoy sharing with my colleagues, students and their families!” – Edie Ungar-Shafron
“Milestones is an invaluable resource to members of our local ASD community who are looking for support, education and coaching. Strike it Big is a fun, family-friendly bowling event for everyone and the money raised allows Milestones to continue its mission. Everyone in attendance enjoys this day – from very young children to older adults. It feels good knowing that we are making an impact in the lives of children and adults in the autism community.” –Allison McMeechan, Strike It Big Event Chair
“Our family has been so inspired and humbled to be a part of fundraising for Milestones. The Strike It Big Event is a wonderful opportunity to have fun, meet wonderful people, and share stories, while helping such a great cause. We would encourage anyone to participate in this family friendly and enjoyable event.” -Kristen, Shawn, Noah and Emma West