“I am Colin’s mom, I created this page for my amazing, wonderful, challenging son who is about to turn 11 on March 9th. Because of Colin’s disabilities, social skills are not easy for him, and he often acts out in school, and the other kids don’t like him. So when I asked him if he wanted a party for his birthday, he said there wasn’t a point because he has no friends. He eats lunch alone in the office everyday because no one will let him sit with them, and rather than force someone to be unhappy with his presence, he sits alone in the office. So I thought, if I could create a page where people could send him positive thoughts and encouraging words, that would be better than any birthday party. Please join me in making my very original son feel special on his day.”
This was Jennifer Cunnigham’s first message on the Facebook page, Happy Birthday Colin.
She created on February 2. Such is the power of social media that the lonely 5th grader now has 1.6 million friends in different nooks of the world, wishing him a happy birthday.
His mother never imagined the impact of her small act of love. She expected about 50 of her friends to respond. Instead people on Facebook flocked to her page. From the Rosenberg police department to Colin’s school where the phone has been ringing off the hook, from Australia to Africa, mothers, fathers, and children have been writing in and sending him gifts, cards and letters of love. Overwhelmed, she wrote: “I’ve been reading and catching up with all of the posts, messages and comments on this page, all the love and support is causing me to just cry, and Colin keeps asking me “Are you okay mom, what’s wrong?” He doesn’t know about this page yet, so I’ve been telling him I’m watching sad videos.”
“Colin does not have autism or Asperger’s syndrome, his disorder is SIMILAR to those,” Jennifer said on Facebook. This makes it tough for him to socialize, Jennifer said in a TV interview. “Things like lights and sound and changes will cause him to melt down,” she said. She clarified: “I have not made public what Colin’s challenges are, and any report that states a disability by name hasn’t spoken to me.”
There are over 70 million people who suffer from autism-related disorders in the world. In India alone, the recorded figure is 10 million even though many people with autism have not been diagnosed yet. According to global statistics, one in every 88 children today is born with autism spectrum disorders against a ratio of one in 110 a few years back. Most of them are shunned by society or rarely get the care they deserve. The good news is that awareness about the condition is growing. More and more organisations are being set up to assist those suffering from autism spectrum disorders.
Entrepreneurs, bravehearts as they are, are also pitching in with their unique abilities to tackle problems head on and come up with viable solutions. Avaz, India’s first augmentative and alternative communication device for autistic children, is one such solution. This was built by Ajit Narayanan, founder of Invention Labs – a YourStory MobileSparks 2013 company. and Ajit is also the winner of ‘MIT Technology Review’ and TR35 award.
YourStory had told the story of Danish entrepreneur Sonne Thorkil, founder of Specialisterne and Specialist People Foundation. “My story started 13 years ago, when my youngest son was diagnosed with autism. It was such a shock because at home, when he was in his comfort zone, he was like his siblings, but in the kindergarten he was at a loss and was completely another person,” he told us. “I came up with the idea of creating this comfort zone in the school system and the labour market, so that people with autism, like my son, will not be seen as a problem. We can help these people, who do not fit into the mainstream and also help the corporate sector to get skills that are very important for them,” Sonne said about his startup, Specialisterne.
One of the hottest startups in Philadelphia, Autism Expressed, is an e-learning platform focused on providing customized, high-quality courses for students with developmental disabilities. Their goal is to develop transition skills that will help teens and tweens with disabilities become independent and engaged members of our communities.
Autism diagnostic startup, SynapDx Corp secured $15.4 million in funding from Google Ventures last year to advance its blood-based autism spectrum disorder diagnostic test.
Temple Grandin, in her book, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, says that Silicon Valley is filled with people he refers to as “Happy Aspies” – people with Asperger’s syndrome who do not have, or want, a diagnosis. In an interview, she said: “I think Steve Jobs was probably on the spectrum; Einstein definitely would be today. I don’t name the live ones. But you can go online and look at the interviews of the heads of Silicon Valley companies. The major big companies. And you can see it.” A kind of ambassador of the people she calls ‘neurotypicals’, she went on to say that a lot of very high-functioning people with Asperger’s can be very good entrepreneurs because they tend to get fixated on their favourite thing. Also, those with the disability tend to be brilliant inventors, she said.
Well, that is definitely food for thought. Don’t you agree?
While you ponder on this, YourStory would like to send out a loud wish for little Colin. Happy Birthday, dear boy!
Join us in this. Spread the love.