What is Autism?
Today, 1 in every 150 children is born with autism, and that ratio is expected to increase. This term refers to a group of disorders called Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Children with ASD have trouble with social interactions and communication, and may exhibit unusual interests and behaviors. In recent years, celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, Toni Braxton, Doug Flutie, Dan Marino, and Ernie Els have campaigned to raise public awareness of autism—and with good reason. Autism has reached epidemic proportions.
But the statistics do not tell the whole story of the impact autism has on tens of thousands of families. Parenting a child with autism provides its own unique joys, but it also introduces a new set of extraordinary challenges. Autism is one of the few disorders with no definitive cause and no effective cure.
Children with ASD begin development normally. Often, until the age of two or three, they achieve milestones like crawling, first steps, and first words at developmentally appropriate times. Yet children with autism will inexplicably change. They exhibit limited eye contact, use fewer words, or even stop speaking altogether. These children often develop hypersensitivity to sounds, smells, and textures.
Over time, children with autism withdraw into their own worlds, creating a seemingly impenetrable bubble. Many parents suffer in these early stages of autism, as their once cuddly and responsive children transition to isolation and disconnectedness. This non-responsiveness is often the most difficult aspect of autism for parents and caregivers.
We adopted our daughter from Romania when she was 27 months old. While we expected developmental delays due to her life in an orphanage, we could not have anticipated that our daughter would be diagnosed with autism at age four. We experienced many of the emotions that other parents certainly experience in this situation: confusion, sadness, anger, denial, even fear.
Yet underlying those emotions was our devotion to our child. We were determined to help our daughter through any means necessary. Thus, we knew early on that we wanted to use Javámo Coffees to reach out to the community, raise awareness about autism, provide educational opportunities, and enhance therapeutic options for children with autism. To that end, we created the Javámo Art for Autism Foundation, a 501(c) 3 non-profit. We dedicate 10% of each sale to the Foundation. Those funds help us to design and offer programs that improve not only the lives of children with autism, but also those who support those children at home and in the classroom.