In case you haven’t heard, April is Autism Awareness Month!

It’s Autism Awareness Month – time to learn more statistics, read about the advances in treatment, Keep Calm and turn your Facebook page blue!

So if the world is listening just a little bit more than usual, it’s also an opportunity for parents to tell their stories – because for them, autism is a 24/7/365 experience.

Meet a dear friend of mine, Marci, pictured with her son Ethan.  Ethan’s story is similar to many – he’s “on the spectrum,” and his quirky behavior eventually made it impossible for him to stay in “normal” school.  So instead of believing her son was “broken,” Marci did what many parents are doing today, she found a place that was able to accept Ethan just the way she saw him – not broken.  Just different.

Marci and her sonThe name of this amazing school is CDC – Child Development Center – located at the University of California Irvine.  It’s part of the Division of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics in the UC Irvine School of Medicine.  Reading through their web site, it may seem like the CDC is still a laboratory of sorts…

After a tour, I realized CDC is so much more!  CDC provides a nurturing environment for 60 kids – ages 5 to 12, all but 5 are boys – who were all asked to leave “normal” school because of their behavioral problems.  Without any medications (the kids have to come off meds to attend), CDC provides these kids with a supportive and nurturing environment, allowing them the space to develop positive self-esteem – in effect, to believe they are NORMAL!  I watched as these “badly behaved kids” participated in class, laughed, and socialized!  Instead of shoving these square kids into a round hole, CDC just became a square.  Not a novel concept, but really the most effective way to work with our kids.

Because of their success, parents are clamoring to get their kids into the CDC.  So Marci is doing what moms do – she’s raising money to make that possible.  At the event I attended, she raised $40,000 towards purchasing new modular buildings that are being delivered and set up this month, allowing the school to expand to 6th grade.  Her vision is to find a way to build a larger school, eventually allowing CDC to work with kids K-12.  Marci believes that will happen – and so do I.  Ethan, and all of our normal kids, deserve that chance.