By Denise Resnik
I’ve never been to Forest, Mississippi, and probably never will. However, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for this 6000-person community after learning about Donald Triplett, the first person diagnosed with autism.
I first read about Donald in the Atlantic Monthly and never grow tired of hearing how his parents overcame obstacles, how they refused the recommended institutionalization and ensured their son would attend school and work. I continue to marvel at how the community embraced Donald’s quirkiness, celebrating his special abilities and turning stories into legends.
Thanks to the community of Forest, Donald has enjoyed a very full life. Today, at the age of 82, he is happy, in good health, lives in his own home, drives his own car and has played golf every day since retiring from his career working at the community bank. In Forest, “no one messes with Donald,” according to New York Times-best selling authors of “In A Different Key – The Story of Autism.”
The stories of Donald, Forest and the history of autism were brought to life by award-winning journalists and dynamic duo, Caren Zucker and John Donvan, who traveled to Phoenix last month and also experienced the supportive community we’ve been building in the nation’s fifth largest metropolitan area.
Whether in a small town in Mississippi or within a 4.3 million-person metropolis, communities are built one person and friend at a time. Communities make dreams possible, help us overcome obstacles and quiet our fears.
Consider the community of bus riders that overcame a bully attempting to get in the face of a young man with autism (read the story here).
Or the community of nonprofits that have embraced SARRC’s CommunityWorks® program, where teens with autism and neuro-typical peers volunteer, learn new skills, build their resumes, make new friends and demonstrate that individuals with autism have much to give.
Or the community of public policy officials, professionals, business leaders and philanthropists who attend SARRC Annual Community Breakfast, learning the latest about autism, experiencing impact and inspiring people to give, get involved and lead. We’ll be hosting our 18th breakfast, April 27, and expect to be joined by 1,600 extraordinary community members.
Or consider the community of SMILE Biscotti lovers who enthusiastically express their support for Matt’s seasonal specials, including March’s new flavor, Mocha Magic!
It just takes one. One friend, one job, one sale, one advocate, each with the potential of opening a new world of possibilities for individuals with autism and their families. Consider the impact when that one is you as conveyed in this powerful and poignant animated film produced by SARRC, Peter H. Reynolds and FableVision.
It’s a piece for all times and people of all ages.
As we prepare for April and celebrate another Autism Awareness Month, ask yourself what you can do to change someone’s world—one act of courage, kindness or business transaction at a time.
“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
Denise is the founder and president of the marketing and communications firm, DRA Strategic Communications. She also serves as a member of the Arizona Community Foundation Board of Directors and member of the Arizona Advisory Board of BBVA Compass.
The mother of a 24-year-old son with autism, Denise is the founder, president and board chair of First Place AZ (www.firstplaceaz.org), a nonprofit dedicated to developing new, innovative housing options for adults with autism and other ‘special abilities,’ and the co-founder and board member emeritus of the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC, www.autismcenter.org), an internationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to autism research, education and community outreach and the support of individuals with autism and their families throughout their lifetimes.
Other nonprofit leadership includes serving as a member of the Autism Speaks Housing Committee, Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism (AFAA) Leadership Council, National Association of Residential Providers for Adults with Autism (NARPAA) and the National Autism Transition Research Network Advisory Panel. Denise also served as a federally appointed member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) of the National Institutes of Health.