Autism affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys. It seems that the numbers are growing, and it is considered the fastest-growing developmental disorder in the United States. Worse of all, there is no real medical detection or cure for autism. It will affect them their entire lives and they will need help along the way.
Imagine having a child with this disorder, as a few in Powell County do. Now imagine sending them to school. Fortunately Powell County schools do a good job of helping autistic children. But if you are a parent of such a child and you see that the staff is trying, would you like to help them too?
Tonya Nolan did just that.
Tonya and her husband Mike have a son, Kaleb. He is five years old and has the non-verbal form of autism. He attends Bowen Elementary School. Tonya and Mike have poured their lives into helping Kaleb. So when they saw an opportunity to help the school staff they seized it.
Tonya started a side baking business, Sweet Pieces, back in November. She makes cakes and reportedly some of the best cupcakes around. The money she makes from baking and selling these goods, she decided to give to help with autistic students. She even decided to order some t-shirts that could be sold for autism awareness.
“At first we got a few shirts to sell, the proceeds go to helping autism awareness,” Nolan said as she waited outside the Bowen Elementary School last Thursday. The school was set to have a balloon release for Autism Awareness Week. “But now we have our third order and have sold over 300 shirts. Add that to the money from Sweet Pieces and we were able to raise $1,000,” she added.
Nolan donated that money to the school to help the special needs students.
Bowen students had been learning all week about autism. Some of the bulletin boards in the hallways were decorated with puzzle pieces, a symbol of autistic children fitting into the puzzle of life. To cap off the week, the students were set for a balloon release. All of the students met outside in the bus lane and let go of their balloons. The fast winds blew the balloons out of sight quickly. It had to cross the minds of Nolan and the special needs instructor Missy Case, how great it would be if a cure could be found just as quick.
“We are so happy that Tonya was able to do this,” Case said. “It is just wonderful.”
As for how the donation can help, Case was excited at the possibilities. “We want to be able to get I pads or items that can really help with communication,” she said, smiling from ear to ear. “Communication is very important to our students and we want to be able to help them more. This will help. I just want to thank Tonya so much.”