Hello all! Allow me to introduce myself! My name is Tricia-Rae Powell and I am the new Communications Associate for Train 4 Autism. I am extremely excited for this opportunity. For a while now I have wanted to get more involved with the organization. I have been running and volunteering with the Orange County Chapter, irregularly, since 2013. Now why would a young woman like myself be interested in getting involved with an organization like Train 4 Autism? Well let me tell you!
My mom, who a lot of you may know or have at least heard of, is Shelly Overton and she is the one who has really inspired me to get more involved. When I heard about the opening for the Communications Associate, I jumped at the chance to fill it. It has been a slow process starting out, but things are starting to pick up steam and I am thrilled to be bringing back the monthly newsletter.
As this is the first issue I am putting together, I thought I would take the opportunity to tell you all a little bit about myself and why I am so eager to be involved with Train 4 Autism. If you know my mother, then you might also know my sister – Danielle, or Dani for short. Dani is on the autism spectrum; she is classified as PDD-NOS. Dani is the oldest of my siblings. Along with Dani, I have an older brother and two step-siblings. Out of the five of us, I am the second youngest. I’m 26 years old, married to an amazing man, recently purchased my first home in Anaheim CA, and work for the Hotels of the Disneyland Resort as a Maintenance Engineer.
For a large portion of my childhood, my mother was a single parent, so my brother and I were expected to help out with Dani. When we were attending the same school, we walked her to her classroom every morning and then back home in the afternoon. When she started taking the bus to school, we had to make sure she got on when it arrived and that we were home in time to meet the bus when she came back. We occasionally had to help her get dressed in the morning or get ready for bed in the evenings. These all seem like such trivial tasks now, but as a child these were immense responsibilities. And I firmly believe that I have become the organized, responsible, and structured person I am today because of the responsibilities I had as a child.
I can recall one Autism Expo I attended a few years back that had a sibling’s panel. I attended this session because I was interested to see what other siblings of autism had to say. Unfortunately, I felt like these panelists were putting on a façade; that life is always hunky dory. One of the questions asked was “how does having a sibling with autism make you feel?” They all replied with generic answers of “blessed” or “so fortunate to be given such a precious gift.” And yes, I believe my sister is a blessing to our family who teaches us patience and kindness and how to enjoy the simple things in life, but that’s not how I would have answered that question.
How does having a sibling with autism make me feel? I’m so glad you asked! For starters, as a young child, I was confused. I did not realize that my sister was different until I started interacting with children outside of my family and I just didn’t understand why she is different. As I got older, I was kind of angry - I’m the younger sister; why do I have to help take care of her? Shouldn’t she be helping take care of me? And why do we always have to watch what she wants to watch on TV? …
On a few occasions, I got to be the protective sister when other kids would pick on her because of her differences. No one messes with my sister and gets away with it, gosh darn it! And now, as an adult, I’ve often reflected back on my youth and think about how different my life would be if I didn’t have a sibling with autism. What would life had been like if I had an older sister to give me advice on clothing or makeup or boys? Would we have spent hours hanging out at the mall as teenagers or would she have shunned me as her annoying little sister? Would we talk on the phone all the time or go out to lunch? Would we have double dated or stolen boyfriends from each other?
But alas, that was not my lot in life. I have an amazing older sister, who just happens to have autism. I have an inspiring mother, who I’m pretty sure could defy gravity if she put her mind to it. I have spectacular brothers and little sister who all teach me how to relax and have fun every once in a while – that life is not only about work. I am extremely fortunate to have this family because I know that we will always be there for each other, thru thick and thin, no matter what.
Now I know a large portion of this organization are parents and I won’t even begin to pretend that I know what it is like or how it feels to be a parent of someone with autism, but I have seen the struggle. I know that there are good days – some really, really great days! – and then there are some bad days. And one of the greatest things about Train 4 Autism is the support that all you parents give each other. You are all superheroes in my eyes. We are promoting healthy living, encourage fundraising for autism charities, creating a support system along with lasting friendships and unforgettable memories.
So, that is why I want to be involved. I have met some truly amazing people within this organization and I hope to meet many more of you while I’m in this role! If any of you want to share your story, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I’m looking forward to serving as your Communications Associate. Let’s get this party started!