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by Shannon Penrod

Friday is World Autism Day.  In honor of the day Autism Speaks has asked us all to “Light it up Blue”.  The “it” to be lit blue is up to each and every one of us.  The Empire State Building will be blue, Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia will be blue and my porch light will be blue.  It’s subtle, but the idea is pure.  This is something that affects all of us.

If Autism isn’t affecting you now, it is my sad job to tell you that it will soon. Whether it is your child or the child who sits next to your child, your friend’s grandchild or your bosses child, someone in your life is or will be dealing with Autism soon.  The statistics are staggering.  Conservative estimates have us at 1 in 100 children worldwide, 1 out every 70 boys.  Before you excuse these numbers with theories of misdiagnosis or bad parenting consider for a moment the disservice you do these courageous children who are fighting daily just to be a part of our world. 

Autism is real.  It’s not going away.  But there is help and there is hope.  This Friday please put your cynicism aside and offer the children and families that are on the front lines of Autism your support.  Find something to light up blue, whether it means wearing a blue shirt or sending all your emails in blue type, make the effort.  Because as Dr. Suess once said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”

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By Shannon Penrod
I am a storyteller.  It took me almost half a century to be able to say with conviction that this is truly my calling.  Saying I was a writer never quite covered the entire picture.  In the years that I was an actress and a stand up comic I was never quite comfortable with those labels either.  No title I was given fit like a glove, it always felt as though there was a finger overlooked.  Now I understand that while I wear many hats in my professional life they all fit comfortably under the heading STORYTELLER.  

Currently there are many stories I am telling.  When I write for clients I am telling their story as it relates to their professional lives.  When I write for Moms who want to work from there homes in order to be with their families while still earning a living – I am weaving a story of women who are capable and triumphant despite challenge.  When I speak to Mothers of children with autism, I tell the story of my journey with my son – a tale of hope and recovery. 

I remember being a young girl and my grandmother telling me the story of my great- great- great grandmother who placed her ten children into a wagon after her husband’s death and traveled with them from Arkansas to Wisconsin where the safely settled.  I am sure that I don’t have the details exactly right, but I remember the gist of the story.  Triumph in the face of insurmountable obstacles.  My grandmother hugged me when she was done telling me the story and said, “Now you are the keeper of this story to share and to pass down to your children and grandchildren.”  Being the keeper of the story resonates with me.  It is a role that feels fitting and right. 

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