If Cypris Flynn’s Asperger’s syndrome could speak, her mom is sure it would say the following:
I have a hard time adapting to change, reading and perceiving the feelings, actions and body language of others. I also hear, see, feel and smell more than you. The world can be very frustrating and confusing, causing me to feel overwhelmed, upset or even melt down. I am not lazy, not a brat, not misbehaving, not faking, not attention-seeking or in need of discipline. I am just like other kids in many ways, with a heart that feels love and pain. Don’t avoid me because I act differently.
At just 11-years old, Cypris has already faced years of judgement, isolation, criticism, shunning – all because people don’t understand the disorder, says her mom Melissa Flynn.
Melissa, along with husband Jason and family friend Joel Hersey (owners of The Truth skate and snow shop in Vedder) are participating in the Walk Now For Autism Speaks on Sept. 25 as a way of unveiling the truth of autism and further supporting their daughter and others like her.
Autism is a neurological disorder, which affects the way the brain functions, and causes difficulties with communication, social interaction, and unusual patterns of repeated behaviour, activities and interests.
Asperger’s is a high-functioning form of autism. Those afflicted often develop normal language skills and are able to function more independently, but struggle with relationships, understanding social cues, sensory stimuli, and transitions. Many also engage in repetitive movements and speech, are rigid and rule-bound, and have difficulties with reading.
And because they are high-functioning, they are often mistaken as “problem childs.”
Melissa has been repeatedly asked: Can’t you just pretend she’s not there? Can’t you get your kid to be quiet? Can’t you just ignore her?
“There are so many ‘can’t you’ questions and the answer is always no,” says Melissa.
“Cypris can’t do a lot of things other kids do, she gets frustrated, and melts down. As a parent you feel helpless, but it’s a lot harder on her than it is us.”
Before Cypris was diagnosed at eight years old, she had already been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and dysgraphia. Many nights she went to bed crying, lamenting that she was a bad girl, that she was dumb.
“She wasn’t learning, wasn’t making friends, wasn’t interested in group activities. She was very isolated and I didn’t know how to bridge that gap,” says Melissa. “It was heart breaking, I didn’t know how to help.”
The family suspected something more wasn’t right, but navigating the system was a challenge. They were on a wait list for Cypris to be assessed for years before she was finally diagnosed. They hired tutors, sent her to a private school for children with dyslexia, paid extensively for a private psychological education assessment, which is required to get an autism assessment.
“We did everything we could think of and beyond what we could afford,” says Melissa.
After Cypris was diagnosed, doors began opening. The family had access to funding for therapists, special programs, camps, etc. But the funding runs out quick, says Melissa.
Funds raised through Walk Now for Autism Speaks go to research, awareness, community supports and bridging programs.
Team Truth aims to raise $3,000. They’ve partnered with etnies, which has designed a shoe for Autism Speaks, that features the charity’s puzzle piece logo, and will be released in Spring 2012. (A prototype of the shoe is on display at The Truth skate shop.)
Etnies will be donating 5 per cent from every shoe sold – at a minimum of $10,000 – to Autism Speaks. The Truth will also be donating $10 from every shoe sold to the cause.
As well, the shop had T-shirts with designs from visual artist Dave Brunning (The Kid Belo) made and will be selling those for $20 with all proceeds going to Autism Speaks. Anyone who purchases the etnies shoes, will receive a T-shirt for free.
“This is our struggle and there is nothing more important than our daughters,” says Melissa. “Cypris has so much to offer, and with proper support and a world that can adapt a little for her, she can be successful.
“She isn’t less of a person, she isn’t stupid, she’s just different.”
Walk Now for Autism Speaks is at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver on Sept. 25.
For more information, or to donate on behalf of the Flynn’s, visit the website: www.walknowforautismspeaks.ca/participant/melissa or visit the store at 45649 Lark Road.