I am fairly certain that most of us will never come close to understanding what it would be like to be locked away in silence and then be given a way out. All the children and adults who share this experience almost always say the same thing.  They are incredibly grateful and they want to help others with autism find their voice. Its remarkable and humbling and frankly I can’t get my heart or head around it most days so writing about it is difficult.  So for this Thanksgiving I will share the letter James wrote to us, his family.  I am going to repost the very first family message he wrote us which was last year on Thanksgiving. It was an acrostic and it was the first deep expression of his emotions.  For those of  you doing RPM with your children, note the change in complexity after one year.


Time for family

Have group fun time

Around the table

Nice plates with food

Know I am loved

So very much

Great laughter sounds until bedtime

I love nights like this one

Very tender treasured moments

I understand how speaking matters to you

Nothing else makes you so unworried about me

Grateful I can talk to you now

Thanksgiving 2014

Dear Family, we are gathered here to share our thankfulness and celebrate our blessings. We eat in this beautiful new kitchen surrounded by the people who made it possible. I have never loved my family more than this month. I have been able to talk to Jane, express my inner thoughts more freely, gain more control and make real friends. My family gave me the strength and opportunity to find myself and everyday I am thankful. I want to change the perception of autism, even one person at a time. I can do this because of you. I have done more this past year than I could have imagined. Meredith married Jack, Joe and Heather are engaged, Jane and I started writing a book, we travelled to Guatemala, and I attend real classes. I cannot thank God enough for these blessings on our family. I love you all, James.


In Honor of Our Veterans

We’ve been overly busy at home with a house renovation that is wrapping up soon but it has kept me from posting much of James’ writing!  One of his first assignments from his teacher this year at the Mclean Homeschool group was to write an essay to be submitted to the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) annual essay contest. The prompt for the contest was the following: “Why Veterans are Important to our Nation’s History and Future

Here is what James wrote.  (It is particularly special to me as my father is a veteran of two foreign wars and we have a dear neighbor across the street who is a WWII veteran who served in the South Pacific).

Veterans Day is a federal holiday, yet many neither observe it nor understand it. What is Veterans Day, exactly? It is a day to honor all previous members of the armed forces. Our veterans have done their duty and retired from or left honorably from the service to come home to limited employment opportunities. I see veterans holding signs on the street, asking for help, yet still saying, “God bless.” Employers fail to realize the skills veterans possess. All veterans are trained in more than combat; they learn discipline, leadership skills, and technical training. Our veterans have dedicated parts of their lives to serve this country and continue even after retirement. They are important to our country and therefore, deserve our support.

Veterans have kept the United States free. Indeed, those who have served are the reason our country persists after wars. They served as soldiers or provided other essential services. For example, as an entertainer during World War II, Mickey Rooney’s service provided morale. Once retired, he used his skills to influence civilians just as he always said: “Don’t retire, inspire. There’s a lot to be done.” Those men he entertained? They accomplished many feats including many huge victories, despite the gloomy circumstances. Veterans are the reason our country gained independence in 1776 and prevented secession in 1865. Despite the hard choice, they fought to preserve the Union and to abolish slavery. These veterans fought and then returned to rebuild our society. After the War for Independence and the Civil War new declarations had to be drafted. These documents, the Constitution and amendments to the Bill of Rights, still guide our country today. In other words, without the skills of our veterans, America would have a different present.

The current veterans have continued the actions of past veterans. Recent wars include the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, and the ongoing War on Terrorism, particularly in Iraq and
Afghanistan.  For instance, Ben Bradlee is a prime example of how current veterans impact our society after active duty. Bradlee served in the Navy in World War II. After the war he became the editor of the Washington Post, now a major newspaper, and oversaw the articles exposing the Watergate Scandal. We still rely on the newspaper that he made popular and he continues to shape its influence on society. There are numerous examples, in addition to Bradlee, of veterans continuing to improve our country even after active duty, yet those in our future may be more important.

Our future veterans are the soldiers currently in training, children in school, and children not yet born. Every day more soldiers enlist in the branches of the military. Our military is a voluntary force, yet America is full of patriots so we always have recruits. The military offers education, a career, training, and a job to be proud of. Wars will never be gone and we will always need soldiers; in other words, we will always have those who serve and then become veterans. Consider John Panaccione, a former 82nd Airborne paratrooper, who now owns LogicBay, a software company in Wilmington. In an effort to continue to serve his country for generations, he also co-founded the non-profit VetToCEO to help veterans become
entrepreneurs. This venture helps future veterans turn their military skills into a successful business. These veterans will be the future backbone of America via economics much like the founding veterans were in government.

Without any doubt, our veterans are essential and important. In the past, veterans helped create the foundations for our novel country. Now our veterans use their unique skills to contribute to society even after their service is complete. Our future veterans will have quite a model to fulfill, yet I have no doubts about their abilities. So long as we honor our veterans, they will rise to meet the challenges we face. America is only as strong as our patriotism, and our veterans are the epitome of patriots.