The Season of Change

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Well, here we go. It is nearing the end of October which means it will soon be November. However, it is still October, but I just saw that the two Hallmark channels will start showing Christmas movies now and will continue until the beginning of January 2024… November is usually the start of the holiday season with many shows and TV show specials celebrating the Christmas season. It is a time of joyous celebration when family and friends get together after being apart, such as sharing festive meals with others. As a leader of an adult autism support group over a number of years, we try and celebrate the holiday season together by planning a special dinner out at a restaurant like Hoss’s or the Shady Maple Smorgasbord in Lancaster just to be together for a nice meal and some fun. November is also known as football season for both college and pro football which many folks young and old get together at local stadiums to cheer on their favorite teams.

As I mentioned above, November is a time of coming together for holiday traditions with loved ones, far and near, to reminisce and to be together once more. As a Christian, it is the time of the coming of our Christ Child who is the one to save us from our sins. But there can be a much darker side to November. The days are getting shorter and colder to prepare us for the coming onset of Winter. It can also be dark for those on the autism spectrum who do not have families to share the holidays with if their family is far away or if they are forgotten because they either live in group or disability homes/apartments. I can attest to this as I live in Section 8 Housing, alone with my cat, and I tend to celebrate the holiday by myself.

Now on a much lighter note about the month of November, since I have put everyone in a depressive mood, I want to share some bright spots on the horizon. From November 7th through 9th the Autism and Special Populations had its annual Pennsylvania Autism Training Conference (PATC)! I was a panelist for the discussion group on certain topics that were covered in the conference. This panelist discussion took place on Thursday afternoon from 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM. If you would like to watch the recordings of this conference, please click here. Then on Saturday, November 11th, I was in Carlisle, PA for a CPARC Advocacy Conference where I was a vendor for the Spectrum Friends adult autism spectrum support group.

Also, once a month I am part of a podcafé group. This group is moderated by Jennifer Jordan and is put on by All Abilities Media, and the podcafé is a podcast for those who have a disability and/or autism. I love doing this because it is a great way to meet other self-advocates across Pennsylvania and we are always looking for others to join our group!

As we closed out the month of October, as I finished writing this blog, it was the first death anniversary of the eldest sibling of my family. Her name was Suzanne Marie Hassell, she was just over 6 years older than me. She passed away on October 25th, 2022, and it was a hard loss for the family, especially the rest of my siblings, nieces, and nephews. This holiday season will be hard for all of us. At first, I was not sure if I would even celebrate the holiday season anymore because of her passing. To say I am very sad is an understatement, but others still need me, and I do not have time to grieve because I have to be at my “A” game for my friends and family. So, all of the autism advocacy work I do is for her and in her memory.

Thomas Hassell

Thomas is 62 years old and has spent the past few decades involved in autism-related social/support groups among other organizations and has become a well-known self-advocate throughout Pennsylvania. For the past 15 years, he’s led a group called “Spectrum Friends” that helps people with autism come together, listen to guest speakers, make new friends, and go on fun field trips. He’s also won and been nominated for multiple disability/autism advocacy awards for his work within the community. Thomas continues to strive for greatness every day and is looking forward to sharing his life story and amazing experiences through ASDNext blogs!

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