Archive for Kathleen Williams

The Local Genius

keep-calm-genius-at-work-9 (1)What do they call it in the movies? Suspension of reality? Suspension       of belief? When you forget that it is not real and you are sucked into a     story and you believe if only for a short time that it is real?

We have officially entered an Alternate Reality. CJ is the local expert in   his field. He is the one you call if you have a project, if you need to         test an app or program, or just need to interview someone. We have       had several graduate students come out and interview him. Not me.       Him. We have TeachLivE using him for their development and him using them to improve his dating skills. We even have the local genius testing her new app on him.

A few months ago I got an email from a young woman working on a science fair project. She had been working with a PhD at UCF to develop some technology to use with persons with Autism to improve social skills. CJ had come up at TeachLivE and she had heard about him asking the avatar on a date. She wanted to know if it was OK to mention CJ in some upcoming interviews.

Me….sure mention away. It’s all on line. And in my blog. (I am sure she anxiously awaits the next entry.) 😉

I get another email from her asking to talk to me to ask some questions.

I talk to a delightful, poised, very intelligent young woman. She explains that she had met with a Ph.D. at UCF, Darin Hughes. She had worked with him on a game he was developing to improve social skills in persons with Autism. She was interested in getting CJ to try it. She wanted to have local TV video him playing the game for an interview. Absolutely. She does not go to CJ’s school. The school she goes to does have an ESE program and we know several of the students. I almost asked her why she didn’t just use someone at her school, but didn’t want to pass this up. She was obviously interested in his connection to TeachLivE.

So, she explains to me that the game had to be played on a computer. She rewrote the code in Java script so that it can run on iPads and iPhones. Me. ?? You what? Of course you did. That’s what I would do.

I knew she was smart, but seriously. We talk for a few minutes. I ask where she is going to school next year. I’m thinking Harvard, Yale, MIT…possibly UCF to continue her work with the technology. I’m sure Sheldon is there somewhere. Definitely Wolowitz for sure. She could be Penny, after all. (just much, much smarter)

She says….wait for it….she’s going to be at her high school again next year…she’s a …..FRESHMAN!! Me……………………………………………………………………………..

I’m not speechless often. I am this time. Soooo……….You really ARE the local genius.

So…now the UCF geniuses have a high school genius on their side.

So….the Local Genius contacts me a few weeks ago. She is doing the interview out at UCF with a UCF station and she wants CJ to come and see the app and see if he can play it. She wants to video him and possibly talk to him.

So…we troop out there over spring break. We meet a delightful, tiny, very poised genius. CJ always wants me to leave. I warn them and leave him in the room with the genius, her brother, who DOES go to Harvard and the reporters. Elizabeth and I go off in search of Wolowitz and Sheldon. I am SURE they are here. I wish I had taken photos of the labs around us.

Elizabeth and I end up talking to the professor who teaches the STEM class the local genius is doing her research through. I decide that Elizabeth and I are slackers. I also decide that I would have like science WAY more if I had known about all this.

CJ loved the app and learned it right away. The local genius shows it to me. It is brilliant. I can see so many opportunities here. I have said from the first time I saw TeachLivE work with CJ that there has to be someway to make an app. If I could just recode into Java script…..I say as we fade to a dream sequence.

They come out and the reporter asks if CJ or I would be interviewed. I told her CJ probably won’t but she can ask. Would I? Seriously? Try to shut me up. I look down…..well….at least I’m wearing a clean t-shirt today.

I go to answer a couple of questions. They wire me up. They start with a question about TeachLivE and CJ. I stop them right there. I explain that I will start talking, but they will have to edit it as it is not an easy answer. I talk for WAY too long. They ask a few other questions. I have thought about all of this A LOT!

What are the possibilities here? What if there was an affordable app that people anywhere could download to use wherever, whenever they wanted? What if this helped even a little? What if therapists and teachers could use it?

There is no way to explain to people the level of desperation families feel when they get a diagnosis. There is no way to explain the feeling of inadequacy you feel when you keep thinking what if I did one more therapy? What if I did a different therapy? What if I did one thing different and that made the difference? There are stories out there about how a family dropped everything and enlisted leagues of volunteers and armies of therapist and “cured” their child of autism. What if I could have done that? What if you could do that? What would it take? I know people who went as far as having invasive procedures done. People are desperate.

What if an app could help? What if an app could make a difference?

We leave and other than my disappointment in not meeting Sheldon , I am thrilled. I hope to continue with the genius. She’s adorable and brilliant. CJ liked her, too. You can tell, because he couldn’t look at her.

I get an email that the interview aired. I have permission from the genius’ father to post it. I even have permission to use her name. Her name is Sapna….personally, I like the Local Genius, though. By the way….I talk WAY TOO long! (as usual)

 

 

No Tight Pants!

red puzzle pieceWhen you live with someone who has autism, you spend your days living side by side lives in two parallel universes.  In CJ’s universe, I think the sky is green and all the clothes are loose and baggy and chicken nuggets grow on trees.  My family is aware of this of this sort of disconnect because we live with it every day.  But once a year, the world gets a reminder too.

Last week was Autism Awareness Day.  Each year, everyone is supposed to wear blue to show support.  Each year, I forget.   Some years I don’t even own a blue shirt.  I don’t have anything with the “Autism Speaks” puzzle pieces on it either.  CJ’s color is green.  My color is red.   Period.  Autism…well, autism gets my support every day of the year already.  I have the bumper sticker.   I think I have an attitude as well.

It’s baseball season at CJ’s school, and the team and coaches wanted to recognize Autism Awareness Day.  Could CJ throw out the first pitch of the game?

Sure.  Absolutely.  As long as he isn’t actually involved in the game.  I made myself clear.  There could be no repeat of the once-in-a-lifetime football experience.  Meaning NO tight pants!   Basically, if it’s not loose enough to hide a baseball in it, CJ won’t be wearing it.

Autism spoke at my house that day.

The day of the game, I dug through my drawers and found a school shirt that just happened to be blue.  No puzzle pieces though.  I put on my Autism ribbon pin and some sandals and off we went to the game.

When we got there, we found the school selling original design T-shirts.  Of course, they say HAWKS, because that’s the school’s mascot.  No brainer.  But the lettering for the word is made out of puzzle pieces.  In all the colors of the rainbow.  With an Autism Awareness ribbon behind.

I stood there blinking, because that was some seriously fine design work for just another ball game.

Then CJ walked up to me, sporting the shirt with a big thumbs up and a “gotta love it” grin.

CJ Gives a Big Thumbs Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then he turned around.

Number One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only is CJ throwing out the ball…he’s on the team!  And the whole team is wearing these awesome shirts with their numbers on the back, ready to play the game.  And CJ is Number One.

I got to my seat in the bleachers and looked down.

LH Puzzle PIece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right smack in the middle of the field.  Lake Howell on a puzzle piece!

And the icing on the cake?  The cherry on top?

The team had invited the Challenger players out onto the field.  They walked out onto the field and their names were called out over the loud speaker.  We were already buzzed with excitement just watching this moment in the sun.  Then CJ threw out the first pitch, and not a bad throw either.

And then…the team presented me with a check for Challenger.

If I haven’t said it before, or said it lately, I love this school.  The level of thoughtful kindness, creativity and support both the staff and the kids have shown to all the special needs kids in their sphere has been overwhelming and has been a gift of real joy for so many people.  At this school, we win whether or not the kids win or lose the game.  They are learning every day that there is more to life than winning at sports.  They are growing hearts and minds for a lifetime.

Big Hearts and Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing.