By Kodey Toney
Look What The Cat Dragged In
Since April is Autism Awareness Month, and that is just around the corner, I think this is a great time to make a couple big announcements. I have hinted to one of these for some time, and I know that some people already know some of this, but I feel it’s time to officially let the cat out of the bag and go public.
I would like to formally make it known that a pet project of mine, the Pervasive Parenting Center has launched. This is a resource center that I have dreamed about opening for a couple years, but I have now actually put into place. The center is a non-profit organization for our rural area to help spread awareness and provide families in this region with resources, support, and knowledge.
You see, when Konner was diagnosed in 2008 my wife and I knew very little about where to turn and what to do. We did our research through the years and have found that there are some resources available, but that they are limited and not very well know.
After completing the Partners in Policymaking program through the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council I realized that I could make a difference by establishing some place in this areathat people could contact to find these resources. What resources we lack I would love to eventually try to set up. Those are some long term plans, and since I’m working out of my house at this point I will say that I am available to help anyone with a disability to find the things you need to help make a better life. If I don’t know the answer I will find it.
While I am the director of the center we have a board of directors made up of local professionals, business and community leaders, family members, parents, and self-advocates. This group will help to guide me as I try to assist the citizens of this region navigate the disability world.
This is not limited to autism. Although that has been my main area of focus, I’m looking to help anybody or family coping with a disability. This includes, but is not limited to down syndrome, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, etc.
Part of what I am doing is to help spread awareness throughout the region. I have been speaking to clubs, organizations, businesses, schools, civic groups, families, and anyone else who will listen about what autism is, about not using the r-word, about people first language, and generally how to help people with disabilities, and in turn how to treat people in general.
We’ve also been partnering with statewide agencies to help bring conferences and speakers to the area. On April 26 there will be a Leadership Conference in Poteau sponsored by the Oklahoma Family Network to help families partner with agencies to provide better services for their children. This is the second of its kind in eastern Oklahoma in six months, and I will have more information on this in the future. We also are working with the Sooner Success to help bring an On The Road Family Perspective Conference to the area in September. Again, I will give more details as this is just in the works right now.
These are just a few of the things we have going right now, but one of the first things the Pervasive Parenting Center is doing is to hold an Autism Awareness Walk in Pocola on Saturday, April 12. This will be held at 3 p.m. at the Pocola City Park. The walk will be held to raise awareness for the growing number of children diagnosed with autism each year. Everyone is welcome to attend. There will be free food available.
Please come out and support autism awareness in our neck of the woods. We would love to see a huge crowd.