Blue Skyes Over Autism is a non-profit organization for families living with Autism in the Houston area. Their goal is to provide support and education for families living with Autism. Their mission is to organize fundraisers to allow them to offer support meetings, educational opportunities, and respite events.
Alan and Annette Fowler are the founders of Blues Skyes Over Autism (BSoA), and they provide a wonderful opportunity for families living with autism. Alan agreed to an interview to share information about his wonderful group for fathers who may be interested in learning more about them.
Blue Skyes over Autism (BSoA) is a 501c3 charitable organization that sponsors respite, support, and educational events for families living with Autism. The BSoA Board coordinates fundraising efforts from which the proceeds allow for periodic events to be held for the purposes of bringing Autism families together.
Katherine Sanger: Why did you start the group?
Alan Fowler: When your loved one receives an Autism Spectrum diagnosis, it’s a life changing event. How it affects your outlook on life depends on how well you adjust mentally to the new life. It took me quite a while to stop hanging on to the pre-Autism life. The more I resisted change, the more miserable I became with this new life.
While the Autism life presents a lot of hardships, there are some pretty amazing victories to revel in. The key is keeping your mind open to what form a victory comes in. Life shifts from watching your son or daughter hit a home run or becoming the lead in a musical to your son or daughter learning a basic life skill or just fitting in without incident at a neighborhood get-together.
While my wife, Annette, and I wanted all our old friends to totally understand our new life and make adjustments to fit us and our unconventional life in to their own lives, we knew the sacrifice was coming from our family. In some cases, the sacrifices we had to make would eventually fracture friendships. For example, we would quite often have to decline invitations to events where our son would not be able to tolerate the environment.
I had coached my oldest son, Keith, for many years and enjoyed every minute of it. I had so many plans to do that with Kevin, too. I thought Autism had shut that down. It took me awhile to understand that Kevin was going to be on a different kind of team. I could coach that team, and Annette could be Team Mom like the good ole days. Our team became BSoA. BSoA became a team where victories were shared and defeat was met with the determination and collaboration needed to prevail in the future.
KS: What is the purpose of the group?
AF: Autism is an equal opportunity offender. Autism aggressively attacks the individual and their family. Autism doesn’t care about race, wealth, or culture. If you haven’t been knocked down by Autism, you haven’t been in the ring with Autism. At BSoA, we firmly believe that getting up, dusting yourself off, and continuing to fight is the only option. Many times, it will be the hand of another Autism parent reaching out and helping you off the mat.
The purpose of BSoA is to strengthen the army that it takes to fight the effects of Autism. When you come to a BSoA event, you will see people of all sizes, shapes and colors bound together by a common cause. Many of these wonderful people would not have met had it not been for Autism. Our goal is to provide as many opportunities for these families to secure and renew meaningful friendships
KS: How do you see the group changing things for the better?
AF: I see more Autism families finding ways to reconnect to society, effectively promote awareness, and to reduce the stress associated with caring for individuals on the Autism Spectrum. I see our peers saying, “If they can, we can.”
Dark days come from dark clouds. Just remember that over those dark clouds that Autism casts, there are beautiful blue skies. We as parents have to see past those dark clouds to see the beautiful sky. That’s what keeps Autism families moving forward. Lives change, more dark clouds appear, but we stay positive and look beyond the things that block our view of a beautiful life.
KS: What is the most positive experience you’ve had because of the group?
AF: The most positive experience from my personal perspective is just seeing my son fit in on his team.
Reflecting back as the founder of the group, every time I see Autism parents interacting in person or on social meeting with people they met via BSoA shows me that they are adding family shaped puzzles pieces in a valiant attempt to complete a very complex puzzle. Each added piece begins to provide clarity to the big picture, which is that we all belong and our lives are meaningful. We are good parents doing the best that we can.
BSoA visited and met with parents and students from the Stella Maris School in Belize in 2013. Inspired by our visit, a few weeks later, the parents there went on their first ever Autism Walk as a group.
KS: Why would you tell other people to become involved with the group?
AF: I would urge anyone living with Autism to become part of any Autism group that supports positive interaction and non-judgmental dialogue among your peers.
At BSoA, we try to invite as many people to our events as finances and operational capabilities will allow. If there is a silver lining with Autism, starting with the individuals on the Autism Spectrum and then to their families and educators, it’s that these folks are relentless and tremendously inspirational. You will meet some of the finest people on earth, and you will become grateful that God put you on a path to meet them.
KS: What else do you want people to know?
AF: I want people to know this: despite the folks that cross your path that either purposely or inadvertently do or say things that lead you to believe that people don’t care about our children and their families, there are so many people who do care or that just need to made aware of the struggle and what they could do to help.
To contact the group, visit their website or their Facebook page.