Monday, June 26, 2017

The Advocate

Pervasive Parenting
By Kodey Toney
The Advocate
Last Monday was Autism Day at the Capitol in Oklahoma City. I had planned to attend myself, along with Terry Yarbery that works with me, but something in me thought to ask Konner if he wanted to go. I felt like this would be a great opportunity for him to start thinking about self-advocacy, and it was a great chance for the legislators to meet him and put a face with a name. I am constantly talking about him, but to be able to actually talk to him and see him is really eye-opening sometimes. They get to see what a great kid he is first-hand.
So I asked Konner if he would like to go, giving him the choice of opting out if he wanted, and to my surprise he said yes. He wanted to actually spend the day with Dad and drive to OKC.
Then I asked if he wanted to wear an autism t-shirt, or a shirt and tie. Again, to my surprise, he said he wanted a shirt and tie. So, Jen went out and bought him a blue shirt and tie. This of course meant that Dad had to wear one too though, but I found the closest matching one I had and we dressed nicely to meet the legislators.
I then emailed the local representatives and senators and ask for a meeting and possible photo opportunity. Though I didn’t hear from all, I had a majority of them respond back.
On the way up I was prepping him in the car. I was asking him what he was going to say, what he wanted them to know about him and autism, and explaining that he had to be on his best behavior and no yelling. He’s in an angry stage lately and I just knew the first thing he would do is scream at one of them. What we finally settled on was that he would say, “Hi, I’m Konner,” when we met someone, and shake their hand. I would just see how the rest goes as we went along.
For the most part everything went extremely well. Konner did great, and other than a minor setback in Rep. Rick West’s office he was pretty amazing.
Rep. West was the first member we visited, and he was very gracious to us. He welcomed us in, Konner introduced himself, and as they started to talk about Thomas the Train, which I thought would be perfect, Konner became agitated. This is because he was going to say something, and forgot. This frustrates him all the time at home. Terry began calming Konner and took him into the hallway for a walk. I used this as an opportunity to explain behavior therapies and early intervention strategies to Rep. West. As the photographer arrived Konner threw himself in the floor, and we had to get him calmed again. Just as the picture was being snapped Konner said that he remembered what he was going to say, and everything was peaceful from that point on.
Next up was Rep. Ed Cannaday. Rep. Cannaday and I have known each other for a few years now, and this one went extremely well. Mr. Cannaday even took Konner to the House Floor and let him sit in his chair while we took pictures.
Rep. John Bennett welcomed us as well. We had a great visit about healthcare and autism matters, and as we left he even gave Konner a bible.
Sen. Mark Allen was the final stop on our day. While we had to wait, I appreciate that he took the time and even left a committee meeting to have his picture taken with us. He was very nice to us.
I just want to say thanks again to all the members that we were able to talk to that day. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule and being so hospitable to myself, and most importantly Konner.
It made for a good day for me, and Konner had such a great time that he will remember for a long time.

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