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Open Doors. Open Minds...

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Stories About Autism

I am Liz Sanderson. This is part of my story of how and why I am involved with people who are struggling, existing, or excelling as a result of living on what we now refer to the Autism Spectrum.

My background is that I grew up in Wisconsin with some eccentric parents, outstanding supportive neighbors, a worldly uncle, and special grandparents, along with many small town freedoms that allowed me to develop an uncanny ability to see the world in ways that gave me many perspectives about being open minded to accept people with various mental gifts and challenges. As an adult, I moved to Seattle, married (twice) and am still raising two sons.

My younger son has a form of autism, which I did not learn until he was in 5th grade. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had not taken it so seriously at first, even as my child was in special education including speech and occupational therapy, pre-kindergarten intervention, elementary school mainstream classes, resource room homework help and the spectrum program for support. We were told he had sensory integration dysfunction, dyspraxia, dyslexia, ADHD, and several other labels I came to refer to as “alphabet soup”. Each passing year seemingly brought a new diagnosis and different medications, never really solving the behavioral problems, but giving me the impression I could never give up. Reality struck hard around Christmas of 2005 when my mother gracefully died the same month my son was having hallucinations and many problems in school. Grief was compounded by grief when I realized that none of my son’s prior labels were quite right, and then he was finally diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Although taking the news of this new diagnosis with some difficulty at first, I knew I had to just keep trying and searching for KEYS and ANSWERS to the variety of syndromes and symptoms associated with the many forms of autism on a range from non verbal to gifted.

ALPHABETITUS is a project to share some of the KEYS AND ANSWERS I found with the help of colleagues and friends, and many thanks to the students at the Art Institute of Seattle, who assisted in designing and building this website. Many of the answers about autism are still missing, but as life unfiltered continues, there is more help and hope. Since undertaking this project, I have learned more about autism from my son, others on the spectrum, from the supposed experts, and from my own journey.  In exploring the depths and limitations of autism I have learned there are no limits except those artificially imposed on people we love who are on the autism spectrum. It comes down to finding the strengths, addressing the challenges with accommodations, adapting, and seeing things from a different perspective. That is why we wanted to put this website together to help connect others to information and resources about autism.