These are extraordinary times. The COVID-19 pandemic often feels like we’re in a bad dream, or the prequel to Will Smith’s I Am Legend. On the verge of an apocalypse or a purge. Most days it feels like I’m moonlighting as an author, but my real job is teacher/guidance counselor/cafeteria lady. This crisis is DEMANDING so much of us— medical and essential workers who are our heroes, and those of us doing our part by staying home and adjusting to, what is for many, a difficult new normal confined in our own four walls.
As an autism mom, I can definitely say there are unique challenges that come with extended quarantine conditions. I have a support group on Facebook for #WarriorMamas, and we’ve been keeping each other’s spirits high.
I asked a few how it has been affecting them and their kiddos on the spectrum.
“I now understand why some animals eat their young,” joked Corinne Michaels, New York Times bestselling author and autism mom.
I think many of us do. LOL!
But seriously, most families with kids on the spectrum rely heavily on a carefully curated team of medical professionals, therapists and instructors to provide the very tailored interventions our kids need in highly structured environments. Loss of structure and routine would affect most kids, but for many on the autism spectrum, it’s magnified.
“I try and count the blessings we have–but it doesn’t help when your 11-year old is missing weekly trips and favorite activities,” said ES Carter, USA Today Bestselling Author and mother to two daughters on the spectrum. “With a child who has limited understanding, it’s impossible to explain to her why these things can’t happen. Sleep is a forgotten concept. Self-harming is out of control. . . I’m hanging on by my fingernails.”
One of Carter’s daughters, eight-year-old Gwen, said she’s worked hard to get into a mainstream classroom and is afraid she’ll forget how to do her work and lose ground.
“Home is too noisy,” Gwen said. “My sister makes a lot of noise and I can hear it in every room. It makes my head hurt.”
Sarah, mom to a 13-year-old on the spectrum, says online learning has presented the biggest challenge for her son who is used to being in a small special education class of twelve students with three aides and a teacher.
“He requires one on-one-attention,” Sarah said. “He also doesn’t really understand technology and he has very limited fine motor skills. So typing, writing, anything along those lines is very hard for him. We accommodate him as much as we can, but my husband and I both still have to work. It’s a long, tedious process.
Exacerbating these challenges are the financial difficulties many of our families face under normal circumstances with therapy and medical needs reaching far beyond insurance coverage, leaving many with hefty out-of-pocket expenses. Considering the historic unemployment rate we’re experiencing in the States, this only adds strain to an already difficult journey.
I know how it feels when things go from heartbreakingly hard to hopeless in a very short time. When he was two years old, my son was diagnosed with Autism. The next day, my husband lost his job. Those two things happening simultaneously rocked our family to the core. Even now, but especially back then, many of the services needed were not covered completely or at all by insurance. Within months, meeting our living expenses and paying for my son’s medical and therapy bills ravaged our finances. Both our cars had been repossessed, we’d sold most of our furniture and we were on the verge of losing our house. Our friends would bring us food when we couldn’t afford groceries.
But hope happened.
Other parents rallied around us, guided us. We were awarded waivers and scholarships to help with therapy expenses. Our need intersected with the kindness and compassion of others. When people ask why I’m so passionate about helping autism families, that’s why. Because someone helped me.
That’s what we want to do now. Help where we can.
Fellow romance author and autism advocate Ginger Scott and I established the LIFT 4 Autism auction in 2015. Each April we sponsor this charitable initiative rallying the romance reading community around Autism Awareness/Acceptance month. We’ve raised nearly $140,000 so far and hope to see amazing results again this year. We never keep one red cent of the proceeds, but they go directly to our charitable partner, Kulture City, an autism organization doing so many great things for families who need support. This year, all proceeds will assist autism families struggling financially during the COVID pandemic.
“Autism families suffer a double blow in these times,” said Dr. Julian Maha, an autism father and Kulture City co-founder. “Not only is there potential loss of income, but also loss of therapy and social support systems for the individuals. In addition, isolation is magnified and loss of routines can incredibly be detrimental.”
To address the unique challenges autism families are facing, Kulture City has created a scholarship fund to help in the interim. They’ve also created a virtual game plan for autism families to fill the education gap during these times. Families will apply for the scholarship and get approved quickly. The education plan is in development and will be rolled out on the Kulture City app in the very near future.
We’re so proud to be a part of this timely initiative and can’t wait to see how the romance reading community shows its love and support for autism families again this year.
In 2019, we raised nearly $50,000. Some of our highest bidding items were tickets to sold-out author signings and in-demand book events. Of course, with social distancing, those have all been cancelled. To possibly compensate, several amazing authors, narrators and publishing professionals are auctioning off virtual chats! We’re hoping many readers will be enticed to bid on virtual chats with people like the legend Beverly Jenkins, shooting star Talia Hibbert, juggernaut authors LJ Shen, Tarryn Fisher, all-star narrators like Zachary Webber, Shane East, Erin Mallon and more. Not to mention critiques and video chats with agents and editors. These are just a few items up for bid. We are incredibly grateful for every single item being donated.
Browse the entire docket to see if you want to bid! Bidding closes Friday, May 1, 5pm EST.
The Auction is LIVE and you can start bidding here: charityauction.bid/Lift4Autism2020
★And if you don’t win your bid, or don’t want to bid, you can STILL be involved!
*Make a tax-deductible “no amount is too big or too small” donation to our Kulture City Fund: http://bit.ly/LIFT202Give
*Buy LIFT Gear like t-shirts, mugs, sweatshirts, mugs, etc… (Proceeds to Kulture City) https://teespring.com/stores/lift4autism
★ Here’s some FAQ about the auction and the bidding process that may prove helpful★