Merging Puzzle Pieces of a Bright Mind: Toni Braxton's Mission of Raising Awareness of Autism
Have you ever taken the time to think about what you learned as a child and how you learned it? When we get older, we may tend to not think about how we got as far as we did. As children, we became curious about everything in sight. We touch objects and make sounds with our mouths. We’re trying to figure out how everything works…and the more we learn as children the more the world becomes fascinating for us. In time, that fascination wanes over because we become accustomed to learning about the world around us.
However, imagine, for a moment, how dramatically your life would change if you had difficulty grasping the commonplace things. Imagine if it became a challenge learning how to interact with your peers or even just learning how to speak and write properly. If such things were a struggle for you, right now, how do you think your life would be?
Toni Braxton, a celebrity musician who has won multiple Grammy Awards, has come to a difficult realization that one of her sons would have to endure this challenge…and she is more than willing to help him through it.
On April 4, 2011 in an interview with OK Magazine, Braxton had discussed the difficulties of the developmental life of Diezel, her youngest son. According to the report, he was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. Braxton had noticed certain signs about her son that seemed to indicate that he was not developing as quickly as he should have, especially in comparison to his older brother. She remarked that Diezel would not maintain eye contact with anyone he met. He would often play games by himself and not interact with other children. She also noticed that he had trouble interacting with various objects, like not being able to throw a ball with proper coordination.
Braxton had once blamed herself for her son’s condition: “I thought it was my fault. I didn’t take my vitamins every day…maybe it was the medications I was on before I got pregnant.”
Despite the difficulties of her son’s development, she felt confident that she would be able to find a way to help Diesel grow up as a normal and bright young man.
Shortly after learning of her son’s condition, Toni Braxton had approached the organization “Autism Speaks”, which seeks funding towards the research of understanding the causes of autism and more importantly finding a cure. Braxton signed on as one of headline performers of “Concert of Autism Speaks." This took place on April 9, 2007 at the Jazz Lincoln Center in New York City with benefits of the proceeds going towards "Autism Speaks." Since that time, Braxton has become a major supporter of the organization, including participating in an ad promoting it’s mission:
On February 9, 2012, Toni Braxton sat in an interview with one of hosts of Fox and Friends, explaining her latest move to bring autism awareness in the United States.
She spoke of a campaign that had been started by SheKnows.com, a site dedicated to helping those with major needs such as child care. The campaign is called “She Knows Where the Other Sock Went”, in which a designer has been hired to make a very fancy woman’s gown out of socks. Braxton explained the campaign is meant to retrieve the socks stolen by the “sock monster” that lurks in our washers and dryers. Once the dress is completed, Braxton will wear it to be auctioned off in May. Proceeds from the auction will then go towards the “Autism Speaks” program.
More information about the “She Knows Where the Other Sock Went” as well as "Autism Speaks" can be found at these sites:
When I was younger, I had to take some speech therapy courses from kindergarten up until I finished middle school. I never had autism, but I had some problems grasping the meaning and concepts of words and basic vocabulary. My mother, in fact, had told me that around the time I should have been able to start verbalizing, I would usually point to objects and be able speak full sentences. However, I had trouble expressing difficult concepts and retrieving words to label the objects I would see. Although I’ve gone over this hurdle over the years as I’ve gotten older and more mature, I remember how frustrating it was to understand basic concepts of logic and vocabulary. It made me feel inferior and behind everyone else. It often made me wonder if I were capable of really understanding anything at all and whether I would be able to handle myself without constantly needing guidance.
I’d imagine that’s probably a problem faced that anyone who suffers from autism or some form of a learning disability, especially as a child. When you have a hard time grasping a simple concept, you feel as if the world is just spinning too fast to understand what’s going on around you. You want to be a part of society and participate in everything that peaks your interest. However, that can be difficult if you have a hard time comprehending basic things that are taught to you. The fact is we may see autism as mainly an ailment suffered by children, but if it's not addressed properly at early stage it could really impact a person's well being for the majority of his or her life.
Imagine, if you will, watching a film that’s geared as a comedy. It’s dry humor. Everyone in the audience around you is roaring with laughter. Someone pokes your arm and makes a comment about how hilarious the lines are. You nod as if you understand, but look at the screen with a blank stare. The words coming out of the actors’ mouths are just a jumble of words and double meanings that don’t really come together for you. You’re really not sure what’s so funny and you just sit there, staring and waiting for something to jump out at you so you can follow along with everyone else. Imagine having to do this for at least an hour and a half, while everyone else is laughing and having a good time.
It’s hard for me to say this is exactly what life is like for an autistic patient, but based on what I’ve read about the condition I don’t think this scenario is far from the truth. With that being said, I can see why this condition is so serious and damaging. Humans are interactive and social creatures who want to feel like they belong somewhere. However, without being able to grasp basic concepts of social interaction and communication, you may feel like you’re falling behind and you are a second rate person. You may not want to be around other people because you may just feel too inferior or unintelligent to be around them.
According to the Autism Speaks website, about 40% of autistic children have above average intellectual skills with many of them having proficient visual, music, and academic skills. With that being said, it’s not a matter of whether someone is smart enough to understand how to do something. It’s a matter of helping them to better tap into that wealth of intelligence that lies within their minds. It is almost like their brain is wired in a different way than everyone else. We need to do more than just use conventional means to help autistic children learn basic concepts as they get older.
Toni Braxton knows that her son, Diezel, is not an inferior being. She shows him just as much love and support as she does for his older brother. He is simply a late bloomer, but not because he’s not smart enough to understand how the world works. Rather, he just needs a better understanding of how to grow up in this world. Isn’t that something we all struggle with anyway? We grow up and we live our lives trying to figure out what we love to do, what we hate doing, what types of music and food we enjoy. It can even include what kind of job we would like and where want to live.
Some people just need more guidance than others especially in their younger years, but with enough of that guidance, we can unlock something incredible within that individual. We can unlock a mind that teach us so much more about how the world really works beyond what we see in our schools, our jobs, or even our media. We can help these individuals express their views and thoughts to help us see everything beyond the simple shades of black and white. More importantly, we can help them realize their real worth and value and by giving themlove we will help them being a part of a society that wants to see what they are capable of achieving.
The basic concepts of our lives are simply puzzle pieces that are scattered on the floor. Wouldn't it be worth our time to help someone put those pieces together and help them see how beautiful the picture will be?