Dear Autism File readers…
I’m Bella Tommey, 17-year-old sister to Billy, who was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of two and a half. Billy lost all speech after his diagnosis, and we lost any kind of communication we had previously built. It was very difficult for me when I was younger, but as Billy has grown—he’s now nearly 16—it has become so much easier. He is a totally different brother to be around, he talks, communicates and a lot of the time I forget he even has autism! Billy is very skilled on the computer, PlayStation, and related activities, and he also has a great many other skills that his fabulous school is encouraging him to develop.
Billy is one of millions of young adults with autism around the world who can put something back into society if given the chance. Last year, I set up a “pop-up café” in London to prove that this is the case—it was a huge success, and all who came remarked on not only what a great day it had been but, most importantly, how they had no idea that individuals with autism had so many skills and so much potential. I’m extremely excited to be working with Imogen Wakefield in taking this campaign to the U.S., specifically to Austin, Texas.
I’m Imogen Wakefield, and I’m also 17 years old. I’ve always had great empathy with children and enjoy working with them in my out-of-school jobs; through my parents’ work, I’ve met a great many children and adults with autism. To see so much potential wasted because people with autism and Asperger’s aren’t being given a chance—mainly due to lack of an awareness of their potential, and lack of understanding when it comes to the challenges they face—is heartbreaking. After spending the summer in London with Bella and her brother Billy, I was inspired to bring the Give Autism A Chance campaign to my hometown of Austin, Texas. Our answer to Bella and Billy’s pop-up café is a day at the ever-so-Austin Spider House Café on West 29th Street (check it out at www.spiderhousecafe.com). We’re expecting some celebrity appearances, tremendous local support, TV coverage and much, much more!
We’re working with other autism organizations to make this day very special and prove our very important point. We have support from so many autism groups, individuals, celebrities and families living with autism, and hope to see as many people as possible at the Café for a Day in Austin. The Autism File will be covering our story and taking photographs for a future issue, and the Autism Media Channel will be making a film about the day. We feel it’s time to “up the game,” and together really shout out about people with autism and Asperger’s and the great potential that they have if given the opportunity.
Please join us at the Spider House Patio Bar and Café, Austin, Texas on April 22, 2020. For more information on Café for a Day, visit www.theautismtrust.com or www.theautismtrustusa.org.
See you there! Bella and Imogen