Richmond County residents ‘light it up blue’ for Autism

 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

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Richmond County residents and PeeDeePost.com readers shared their “light it up blue” for Autism photos with The Pee Dee Post throughout the work day on Thursday, recognized as Autism Awareness Day.

Trina Freemann and her son, Johnny Wade, 5, cope with Autism on a daily basis.

Trina Freemann and her son, Johnny Wade, 5, cope with Autism on a daily basis.

Some followed the PDP’s suggested format of submitting a “selfie.” Others cheated — that’s to be taken in a lighthearted manner, of course — and had someone else snap a photo. Either way, it’s inarguable that Autism is (a) in Richmond County, (b) affects the lives of their friends and loves ones and (c) is difficult to understand unless it affects you and yours.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website defines autism as “a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior.”

Emily Tucker, president of the local Autism Society chapter, said each child with autism is different.

Trina Freeman shared Johnny Wade’s story. Johnny is a 5-year-old student at Sandhills Children’s Center in Rockingham.

“Autism is a tough challenge but with the right help is easy to cope with,” Freeman said. “Johnny has his good and bad days. On good days, everything runs very smoothly but, on the bad days, Johnny … will say ‘no!’ to almost everything. He has little temper fits he’ll gladly show off!”

Freeman understands the stigma and apprehension those unfamiliar with the disorder might have, but that doesn’t make her shy away from enjoying all there is to see and do in Richmond County.

Elizabeth Horner poses with her Build-a-Bear, Carolina. Elizabeth is an advocate for the Richmond County Special Olympics.

Elizabeth Horner poses with her Build-a-Bear, Carolina. Elizabeth is an advocate for the Richmond County Special Olympics.

“I know when people see him ac that way in public, they are so blown away and there’s no telling the thoughts they have,” Freeman said. “It used to bother me when he would yell. Now, I just look at him and say, ‘Johnny, it’s time to calm down.’ Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Johnny has struggled with health issues for at least half his young life, Freeman said. In the months leading up to his third birthday, Johnny had to have two sets of tubes put in his ears because he went deaf. To say that impacted how Freeman handled day-to-day affairs is an understatement.

“It was a struggle to teach him things,” Freeman said. “Back then, I didn’t think we would be where we are today. But with the help of Sandhills Children’s Center and his wonderful doctor, he is now having conversations with us and will be transferring to public school” in the fall of 2015.

Being nervous, or anxious, isn’t part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder. That’s okay, though, because Freeman said she’s managing that part on her own just fine regarding his transition to public school.

Members of FirstHealth Neurosurgery "light it up blue" for Autism awareness.

Members of FirstHealth Neurosurgery “light it up blue” for Autism awareness.

“I’m so nervous for him,” she said. “I love this boy so much. He has (given) me a whole new look on life. He proves every day that things can go from tough to just fine. His smile lights up so many people!”

The Richmond County chapter of the Autism Society of North Carolina meets almost every third Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. in the auditorium at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital on Long Drive. The next meeting is slated for Aug. 16.

Tucker estimates between 50 and 100 Richmond County children have some form of autism.

My daughter Jill Lawson has Autism, writes mom Ann O'Neal. Jill's also an eighth-grader at Rockingham Middle School.

My daughter Jill Lawson has Autism, writes mom Ann O’Neal. Jill’s also an eighth-grader at Rockingham Middle School.

Shalanda Smith's daughter, Ayanna Womack, doesn't have Autism but wears blue to show support for those who do. Ayanna is a fourth grade student at Monroe Avenue Elementary School.

Shalanda Smith’s daughter, Ayanna Womack, doesn’t have Autism but wears blue to show support for those who do. Ayanna is a fourth grade student at Monroe Avenue Elementary School.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 8.20.33 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 8.20.23 PM

Jayme Sabin, teacher and Artoria Smith, assistant at Cordova School in the Autism classroom.

Jayme Sabin, teacher and Artoria Smith, assistant at Cordova School in the Autism classroom.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 8.19.55 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 8.20.05 PM

 

Melody Bruce and her daughter, River - a kindergarten student at Fairview Heights Elementary School in Hamlet - pause for a pic.

Melody Bruce and her daughter, River – a kindergarten student at Fairview Heights Elementary School in Hamlet – pause for a pic.

Nikki Wells is blue at Samaritan Colony.

Nikki Wells is blue at Samaritan Colony.

 

Filed in: Cheraw, Ellerbe/Norman, Featured News, Hamlet, Health, Hoffman, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham

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