I’m Cassie Zupke, the mom of three teenagers, one of whom has mild autism. I’m also the founder and director of Open Doors Now. ODN is a non-profit education and support group for students and young adults with Asperger’s/mild autism/similar disorders, their families and educators. We help families and schools work together for the benefit of the kids. ODN is located in southern California’s Inland Empire and serves over 700 local families and educators, and numerous more people on-line. Check out our website at www.opendoorsnow.org.
As the director of ODN, I get to talk with a lot of people. Parents and I talk about what we’re going through and the best ways to get our kids ready for life while still keeping the family a sane, fun place to live. I meet with teachers and school administrators to discuss best practices and new programs to help our kids be successful at school and transition to life after high school. In our youth group I get to chat with a lot of kids who are on the autism spectrum or have similar diagnoses, their siblings, grandparents, friends and the occasional 17th century pirate or Stormtrooper. (Honestly, our Kids’ Club rocks!!)
The great thing about getting to interact with all these people is that I learn a lot. I get to see issues from different perspectives and see connections I wouldn’t have otherwise. From tricks that make homework time go easier, to getting along at the IEP table, to how to help our kids find their place in the Geek subculture – we talk about everything. And I take notes.
My little red notebook comes with me to my meetings. While most of what I write down in it is about the typical things needed to run an organization (like who’s paying the bills and how are we going to come up with the money to pay them?), it’s also where I write the questions and ideas that come to me while I’m moving through the world of raising and teaching autistic kids. Things like, are parents and our schools doing enough to get our teenagers ready for college and work? What could they do? How could they do what they’re doing better? How do we convince our children that they need to take an interest in developing their own skills so they can eventually get and keep a job and thus will be able to afford necessities in life like video games, because “you know kid, eventually I’m going to quit buying them for you?” And what are Manga and fan fiction anyway, and why does my kid keep talking about it?
The purpose of my book, the articles I write, my speaking engagements and my blog are to share the best of my little red notebook — to explore issues facing children with Asperger’s/mild autism, their families and teachers. It’s not about me and my family or particular people, it’s about all of us. It’s about helping our children grow to be as happy, competent and independent as possible, and retaining our own sanity in the process and actually enjoying raising them.
I hope you enjoy my work and find something useful.
Interviews with Cassie: