For autism moms, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on all of the positives in our challenging lives. In spite of the hatred and divisiveness sweeping our country, there are still warm and welcoming people and places where diversity is respected, accepted and even embraced. These days kindness and generosity are in short supply, so I’m very grateful when I meet people in my life who possess those increasingly rare qualities. (Think sip of water in the desert or soothing calm after a storm). More than ever I appreciate, enjoy and treasure the following:
- A full nest. Our son is home from LA after not seeing him for a year. Our twins—different as night and day—are reunited and have an opportunity to bond for the next few weeks. Howard and I can enjoy our kids separately and together. We love them and are proud of them both.
- My EPIC Players family. I’m so happy and proud to be part of the creation and growth of our incredible neurodiverse theater company. It has been a pleasure watching our community of actors with and without disabilities collaborate and perform ever-improving shows and cabarets. We are blessed to have Aubrie Therrien as our Executive Director, Travis Burbee as our Associate director, devoted teaching artists and a stellar cast and crew. I wake up every day and think of EPIC as a bright light in my world.
- EPIC opportunities. Not only has EPIC lived up to its name—Empower, Perform, Include and Create—the company has already succeeded in its mission to find professional paid opportunities for its actors. In only three short years, our actors have appeared in Keep the Change (Best Narrative Film, Best Actress Nomination, Tribeca 2017); Good Time (with Robert Pattinson); as well as a television series, a SPARKS Autism Awareness Project, Bernie and Mikey Go to the Moon (off Broadway) and were recently invited to audition for The Good Doctor.
- Jon Herbertsson at the United Nations for inviting my daughter Samantha Elisofon, Keep the Change Director Rachel Israel and EPIC Director Aubrie Therrien to speak at the UN on World Autism Awareness Day. The 2018 theme was Empowering Girls and Women on the Spectrum. What could be more empowering and inspiring than honoring three of my favorite women with an invitation to speak to a worldwide audience?
- Spotify for giving EPIC Players and my daughter the opportunity to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange after singing “This is Me” to all of the floor traders. What a thrill!
- Eyal Shiray for buying the rights to Keep the Change in Israel and inviting our family to Israel to attend six screenings of the film, including one specially arranged for adults with autism. Eyal called Keep the Change “a very important film,” and provided it with tremendous exposure in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and in the Israeli Press. After we came home from Israel one of our neighbors asked Howard: “Are you the father of that actress who appeared on TV in Israel?” Yet another thrill.
- All of the many film festival directors in the US and all over the world that featured Keep the Change. After Tribeca, we were invited to Karlovy Vary (in the Czech Republic) San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Toronto, Harrisburg, Columbia University, Rutgers, among others. Thank you to all of the festival directors who welcomed my daughter and her co-star with incredible warmth, hospitality and even honorariums. Nothing beats seeing the joy on Samantha’s face as she hugged audience members who praised her performance. Imagine what it’s like for a little girl with autism who grew up with no friends and a gloomy prognosis to be suddenly catapulted onto the world stage and bathed in compliments and adulation? (Very hard to describe, but I tried).
- Camilla Bixler and AASCEND (Autism Asperger Spectrum Coalition for Education Networking and Development) for presenting their Development award to Samantha and the cast of Keep the Change and for inviting EPIC’s Executive Director Aubrie Therrien to appear on a panel at their San Francisco Autism Conference.
- Rachel Israel for her sensitivity and commitment to actors with autism. Fingers crossed that her TV version of Keep the Change gets picked up.
- My best friend in life and love, Howard, for his heroic support of our family and continuing to be a “patron of the arts.” With an actress daughter and a screenwriting son, what choice does he have?
- My best friend Robin, and partner in most of life’s ups and downs since childhood. So grateful that we are sharing the joy of EPIC together and looking forward to sharing whatever comes next.
- To all of my friends, along with Samantha’s teachers and therapists who have supported and encouraged this autism mom’s exhausting but exciting journey. I would also like to acknowledge
- Marjorie Madfis, another autism mom, for providing employment opportunities for young women on the spectrum. She was kind enough to acknowledge me on her thank you list, so I would like to return that favor.
- Holidays like Thanksgiving because they provide instantly relevant blog material when I’m too busy to think of another idea. firstname.lastname@example.org
A Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Here’s hoping there will be more reasons to be thankful next year.