Today, I asked Tucker what I should write about.
He replied, “Our trip to Oklahoma.”
Now, I’m sure he thinks I’m going to write about the trip and how awesome it was – and I could certainly do that. However, this blog is about autism…so I need to include some information on how the spectrum affected our trip.
Service projects are of great importance to me and every summer since they have been born I have tried to come up with a project ‘greater than them.’
On May 20, 2013 an EF5 tornado touched down by Newcastle, Oklahoma and traveled through Moore, Oklahoma. It was reported that there were 24 fatalities and 377 injured in the storm. It was the first ‘real’ tornado coverage my children had seen (or could remember).
My children were devastated – Tucker was most concerned that two elementary schools were destroyed. As we sat at the table talking about the storms on May 21, my children had a great idea.
Tucker, “Mom, we should send our school supplies since we won’t need them anymore.”
Estelle agreed and also remarked that she had plenty of friends who would probably give their ‘old’ school supplies.
Of course I thought this was a great idea! Maybe we could get a couple of boxes of supplies to send to Oklahoma. Then Estelle asked, “Mom – can you put it on Facebook and see if other people will donate?” Sure…why not?
That was the beginning of a six-week long project of insane proportions. Children from all over Iowa and Minnesota gave their ‘old’ school supplies on the last day of school to our project. The support was remarkable.
So…what does this have to do with autism?
Check out the following pictures…
One would think the chaos would have driven my highly structured boy mad. It didn’t though – it was a constant project providing constant movement. Boxes and boxes and boxes of pens, pencils, rulers, crayons. Boxes and boxes and boxes that needed to be dumped, sorted, and repackaged.
If that wasn’t a great job for a child who thrives on order, I don’t know what is. He was in heaven.
Five weeks of sorting and repackaging.
Five weeks and plenty of sweat later we ended up with 421 school bags with binders, notebooks, pencil cases, pencils, pens, erasers, crayons, markers, kleenex, folders, scissors – anything that a child would need to get started in an upcoming school year. We estimated each full bag at $50 (including the cost of the ‘gently used’ bags) thus our donation totaled over $20,000.
A very generous man in our community donated the use of his trailer for us to haul all of this to Oklahoma.
So, again – what does this have to do with autism? Yes, the sorting and organizing was right up his ally. Here he is getting ready to pack bags.
You know what wasn’t ‘really’ awesome and tried my patience? The quality control person on bag #250 after five weeks…seriously. Throw some stuff in the bag and call it good.
You know what actually was really awesome? The quality control person on bag #251 that made sure each and every child received the same materials. Making sure that EVERY single bag had the EXACT same pieces. That EVERY single pencil-case had the EXACT same number of pencil top erasers, colors, pencils, and markets. EVERY bag had the correct number of folders and notebooks.
It’s the thing about the spectrum – it seems every thing that can be irritating is also a phenomenal quality.
Feeling intensely is better than not feeling.
Tasting extremely is better than not tasting.
Making sure every child has the supplies they need is WAY better than a child missing crayons or markers.
Appreciating opposites…that’s what life on the spectrum is often about.
If you are interested in this project and have a few minutes – here is a video we put together after the project.