Well, that time is upon us when we put to bed the past year and welcome in another and we have a lot to look back upon. It was about a year ago this week when our little man, Kian, received his official diagnosis of being on the spectrum. For Robyn and I this was not a surprising revelation, but an answer to the nearly decade long questions we had for him. It was a “call to action” in many ways as it was through his diagnosis, his needs and a simple conversation with his doctor that started what we now know as F.A.A.S.T.! It was a year ago this week that we recognized that it was time that we stood for something and worked to make the world a easier place for Kian to live in, a place that would accept him for who he is, for the greatness he possesses and the normalcy that he needs in a world that will be increasingly difficult to navigate. This calling has not been something we’ve taken lightly and in many ways has been the calling I personally have been looking for. It has been an honor for me to be part of this community and I have learned much more about Kian and myself, lessons I’ll never forget.
We officially started F.A.A.S.T. at the end of January 2011, created our logo, Facebook page and website, and launched into the world of families facing autism head on. I was introduced to a gentlemen north of the boarder who I know consider my mentor, Stuart Duncan (Autism from a Fathers Point of View). Although I have never met Stuart face-to-face, I’ve witnessed the tremendous dedication he puts in to make the world a better place for his son Cameron and the great steps he has taken to spread the message of awareness and acceptance. I quickly gained a great admiration for Stuart and respect for the time he has put in, the leadership he has exhibited and motivation to be a source of information to make the autism spectrum more understood by the general public. This is certainly no easy task, but the daily messages I receive from Stuart in my email box and computer screen has illustrated just what it takes to make a difference in this community, which he does so very well. To you Stuart, I thank you for being a leader, a mentor and a friend. I’ll not soon forget your guidance and leadership; you are a true advocate in every sense of the word.
The first year of F.A.A.S.T. was very eye opening to say the least. We’ve learned, we’ve cried, we’ve shared experience and we’ve gained a network of great friends who today hold very dear to our hearts. Not only the people who have attended our meetings, but our guests have become a source of friendship and support. I would be remiss if I did not mention each one by name specifically, so to Dr. Megan Farley, Dr. Adam Schwebach, Maurine Newton, Josette Dorius, Amy Peters and Joel Manwill, we thank each of you for your willingness to share your expertise, your experience and most valuable, your time to help educate and grow, relate to each other and establish a community through hope and compassion. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the support we’ve received from Laura Anderson and Cheryl Smith of the Autism Council of Utah, Mirella Peterson of the Utah Autism Coalition, Mary C. Ray and Erik Peacock of MyAutismTeam and Tammy Custer of the Airmen and Family Readiness Center, Hill AFB, UT for the love and support you have all shown us. Each of you are heroes to me and my family and I truly appreciate your contributions in making F.A.A.S.T. what it is today. For that I am eternally grateful. I truly look forward to working with each of you to over the coming years as we work diligently to improve the lives of those on the spectrum, and create awareness within our communities. Thank you all.
The next year is going to be big with a number of things we’ve already got plans for and with continued effort, all of those things will come to realization. We are eager to continue to spread awareness and make a difference in the lives of people who stand in front of the challenges autism presents on a daily basis. I firmly believe that 2012 will be a great year and we will make a difference in our communities and continue to create #awareness1by1. In closing, I want to express my appreciation to my lovely bride Robyn for all the support you have given me over the past year. From spending a month as an acting single mom while I was back east to the running from place to place to get what was needed, you’ve kept a smile on your face and a supportive word or two when needed. From the late nights spent talking with our state representatives to sitting in front of the computer finding stories or videos that give hope to those who follow us, you haven’t complained. I’m grateful for that and appreciate your drive and dedication to what we are trying to accomplish. You’ve always been a great wife and mother, but I haven’t always been able to see the great supporter you are; thank you for that.
From my family to yours, here’s wishing each of you a very happy holiday season and a very happy and healthy 2012!
The Vaughan family