What KindTree means to one autist
by Mary-Minn Sirag June, 2001
I discovered KindTree last summer, having confessed to my trusty massage therapist, Sharon Shaffer, that I have autism, in addition to all the aches and pains which she was malexing out of my corrugated fascia. She swiveled around her big chair and scribbled out a prescription of Tim’s name and number.
Kind Tree has worked magic on my life since then. Heretofore, I had tried to conceal my autism–a larger part of me than I cared to admit–from all but trusted friends. This admission has been a breakthrough in many ways. Just last week, for instance, I got my self-employment plan as a back-book indexer approved by Voc Rehab. This will enable me eventually to work at something solitary, bookish and suitable to my peculiar temperament. Without Kind Tree, I would never have felt deserving of any kind of career assistance. By celebrating people with autism, Kind Tree empowers us.
Two weeks after I met Tim, Steve, Michelle, Melissa and Nel, I was invited to KindTree’s Autism Retreat at Cedar Hill Retreat Center in Deadwood. The day was devoted to autistic silliness and camaraderie. The highlights for me were Tim’s echolalia microphone and the echopraxia rug game. Nothing like collaborative self-stim. What a special kinship I felt with the other people there!
KindTree welcomed autumn’s majesty with Nel’s monthly support group at the Hilyard Center. This is the best support group. We all speak deep from the heart, respecting and supporting each other through our frustrations with and confusions about the neuro-normal world–no war stories or power politics here. One excellent session was an art session led by Ericka, who teaches a marketable art class.
The annual Haunted House fund-raiser was another highlight. I was echolalia emcee one night on Tim’s trusty mic, my Transylvanian persona cackling at Melissa’s blood curdling shrieks as her sadistic butcher decapitated her, all to Tim’s daughter Miranda’s chilling soundtrack.
Roz De Roos organized an inspiring talent show at L.C.C. in January. Magical was the quality of the acts and the rapport between the performers and the audience.
A few weeks later, we hung an autistic art show in the Unitarian Church’s Inner Space gallery. KindTree honored the artists with an art opening. It is very special to see people admiring our art, and to mingle with non-autists and other autists. Many of my fellow Unitarians told me they were impressed with the talent and moved by Tim’s short bios accompanying the pieces. It was an easy way for me to “come out” as an autist and to show the neuro-normal world that we are not just head-bashing freaks.
We at KindTree look toward the summer and even our future with some melancholy, though. Our cash box is depleted, which puts our programs in jeopardy. We haven’t the cash to rent the Hilyard Center for our support group, though I and the other autists and aspergers want it to continue through the summer. An enthusiastic therapist, Jean-Marie Moore, has even volunteered to pinch-hit for Nel in June and August. Our lack of money compels us to meet on the lawn outside the Hilyard Center, which is not private or quiet enough for most of us to talk without reserve. We may have to start charging people in the support group, which may discourage less prosperous autists.
We ask any of you who can afford to make a contribution to KindTree to do so. Any amount would be appreciated. Money has a way of attracting its own kin. A critical mass has been known even to sprout its own progeny of coins and notes for the worthiest purposes. It just asks some forward-thinking bank notes to stand up and be counted!