PUHI — A hodgepodge of colors are mixed and melted together to make the puzzle-piece crayons that Shana Cruz hands out during the month of April.
It’s a way to promote Autism Awareness Month.
“Every one of them is unique, just like our children, just like us,” Cruz said. “They’re a celebration of diversity and a token of acknowledgement and autism awareness.”
Cruz isn’t a licensed healthcare professional. She’s a mother who shares information based on her own personal experience and the woman who sparked “Be The Voice,” a parent-to-parent support organization that hosts events and coffee hours.
Her journey with autism started when her oldest son SJ was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old. SJ is now 6. His brother, Matthew, is 5, and also has autism. Cruz’s youngest son is just about 2 years old and the family isn’t sure if he’s following in his brother’s footsteps.
“He’s talking, but we’re not sure,” Cruz said.
The Cruz family turned to Easter Seals when they first started wondering if SJ had developmental disorders, and has since found a cache of resources for families and individuals who are on the spectrum.
Cruz went back to school in August to “learn how to be a better parent,” taking classes at Kauai Community College in early childhood development.
Now, Cruz is sharing what she learned through Be The Voice.
“It’s a grassroots effort to be in a place that’s comfortable where we can talk and share,” she said.
Monthly coffee hours are hosted throughout the island on different Saturdays, and those who attend sign some paperwork that ensures confidentiality.
On April 19, the Autism Society of Hawaii is presenting a resource fair at the Kauai Veterans Center from noon to 2 p.m.
And to wrap it up on April 28, Be The Voice is hosting a Last Hoorah for the autism month celebration with a train ride through Kilohana Plantation. The cost is $6 for adults and $3 for children.
Info: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: The time of the resource fair at the Kauai Veterans Center has been corrected. A reference to a family day at Kanuikapono Public Charter School on April 15 has been removed as it is not scheduled.