“I only want to support POAC…”
Vincenza was letting me join in her yearly fundraiser (I use a beautiful company that does personalized items for online fundraising) and one of the pieces I posted was personalized to support a group that she did not favor. When I met Vincenza I remember thinking, mama bear, I got a warm blanket of childhood memories as she asked me to remove my post.
“Not, [this group}. Look them up, I haven’t found a program or event yet.” She was right and it’s a huge group!
I was sick.
See, it was another example of a huge name claiming to support; a lot of funds go their way and I still haven’t figured out what they actually do for their autism community. This solidified my belief. we need to know our local support groups, the people actually giving back to our communities locally.
POAC.net is family. The kind of family we all need… They’re that family member that gives you a bear hug, teases you for smelling like feet, then reminds you that you are made of STARS and the universe was formed for your taking. They push, confide, educate, inspired at a time when parents are lost. The need for this type of support is immeasurable.
So, what do they do? Aside from saving lost mama’s from their own fears and confusion.
For unknown reasons, New Jersey has the highest rate of autism in the country. Gary Weitzen started out in search of a solution for his son. He had basically the same observation the above mama had, where were the autistic kids and services if New Jersey’s autism rate was so high? To this day, Gary hasn’t found a case as extreme as his sons. He know’s some could say “of course, it’s your son.”, but by watching Gary’s actions; his integrity would be to acknowledge if someone else’s child was worse, then offer them the bear hug of support and knowledge that he has.
My favorite human trait is our ability to adapt. I’m constantly proven, if there is a need, humans will find away. Gary’s adaptation into the autism community lead him to organize this fun, informed, protective, caring family. His WHY? (My question to everyone is always, WHY do you give yourself for others?) Gary’s son’s autism leads to out of control outburst leading to physical harm. That’s got to be one of the hardest things to try to grasp as a parent. He couldn’t watch his son live a life of harmful anxiety. He needed a solution, once he set out on behalf of his son, he found there were others in his shoes.
“It just grew.” he acknowledged. “That’s why I say thank you autism. Had it not been for autism, I would not have the relationship with my son and all these people. The services we provide, the families we help… How could I not do it?”
They started out as any small group, just getting together. Now, they are the states leading provider of education and outreach for families with autistic loved ones and state first responders.
The calendar of events was what really struck me with POAC at first. Aside from my friends enthusiasm, it was the actual involvement of everyone that drew me in. It seems weekly there is something going on. Don’t you think that is one of the most prevalent ways any group can make an impact? Consistent, inviting, entertaining, events that allow children and families to express themselves in the most open comfortable way. What kind of relief would that be if you knew every week(ish) you had something for your child to go to where they could release their angst among their peers. While the child is running amuck, the parent can curse, scream, laugh, then cry against the vital sounding board of those that have shared in their frustrations before. I have learned, finding this kind of comfort reminds you that you can succeed on the roughest days.
Aside from all this, the real growth and benefit to us all from POAC is their foundation and training. From the beginning, they have made sure to educate. Only, like everything with POAC, the extent of education they have built is deep, inclusive and thoughtful. I went to make a list of their trainings, something to narrow things down for all of us to see what they do. I clicked on the “Fact Sheets” page on the POAC.net site- then laughed and laughed… Do it yourself poac.net/resources/fact-sheets
HOW MANY SHEETS DID YOU FIND?!?! SO many!
- 14 pg step by step guides on how to set a base line for education levels of the child so you an develop a meaningful action plan that tracks development of functional performance. With autism, each “spectrum” (for lack of a better term) had different learning capabilities. POAC works with educators on so many trainings to better educate our autistic children so they thrive in the future.
- an outline of cycles of rage that children with Aspergers Syndrome go through so that parents, educators and support givers can better identify what the autistic person is going through.
- Parental Rights Education
- Transitioning Children into Adulthood-imagine all the different topics that come with this? All of those really hard conversations as a parent have to be in the open of parents of autistic children. Not being able to fully process all the new sensory that comes with adulthood… it’s a lot. I’m pretty sure we all could have used a little training in this (ha).
The training library they provide for free on their site is only one part. They take this training to New Jersey schools, groups and first responders but their Autism Shield program will be what proactively save lives and opens the door to new views on autism. If communities implemented the Autism Shield program on their communities, it would be a start to the education we all need to help these families develop the normalcy, stability and awareness to help these children integrate into productive jobs and self sufficiency they need for a successful life. IT’s SO IMPORTANT!!!
Autism Shield is a training program for first responders to recognize autistic children, & adults, what they are doing and how to control the situation if there is an outburst. There are people with autism that are being incorrectly identified by first responders as potential threats instead of in need. By not recognising the signs of someone with autism, officers are responding to extreme behavior as they were trained, with force. Officers don’t know the outburst are triggers of anxiety. That the pacing and lack of attention are due to the autistic persons inability to cope with their surroundings. What a scary situation for everyone involved. By educating them, police officers, firefighters, EMT’s- can positively influence the situation and prevent harm. This directly saves lives. This is the on the ground community influence we all can use to be aware of our fellows.
There’s just so much more to talk about with POAC…
I will go on and on about how I want to bottle up this family of educated, heartwarming support and share them with every autistic family I meet. I’m constantly wanting to share their humor, perseverance and dedication. They are the leader in so many great solutions and have the depth to grow and succeed in the fight of this still very new challenge. They gladly spend the monetary support they receive back to research on autism prevention, first responder training and family events (96.5 cents of every dollar is for outreach. Openly you can see this through out this organization and I am very thankful to know them
Thank you POAC.
To know more or receive help: POAC.net