Connections among people are vital to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Anyone who took psychology 101 will probably remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It goes something like this: fundamental among needs humans require is connection—esteem, friendship and love. If these are not met, individuals feel anxious and tense.

Also, as anyone who has been affected by autism will attest, connection is often more difficult because of the disorder or misperceptions about autism

I’ve started this blog mentioning Maslow and the human needs because I watched, and was charmed by, a spectacle that took place Friday night at the Erik’s Ranch & Retreats’ Diamonds in the Rough. Although it ostensibly was a fundraiser and awareness raiser for adults with autism, I watched connections being made among people who would not ordinarily have come together.

Under the aegis of an art exhibit and sale, our Erik’s Minnesota Adventures tour guides convened at Griffin Gallery in Edina, Minnesota, to mingle with artists and guests. I watched each of the young adults with autism easily converse with guests. I think back to a year ago, when Erik’s Minnesota Adventures had just started. These same social butterflies were not nearly as confident, nor would they have mingled as easily as they did this year.

I’m not saying that Erik’s Minnesota Adventures is the only reason they have self-confidence, but it has helped them find their voices. The connections each one made warms my heart and tells me that changing perception is tantamount to what we do at Erik’s Ranch & Retreats.

As fundraisers go, I would have liked to sell more art. On a connection basis, however, I believe that it was a huge success. My thanks to everyone who joined us, helped and made this evening a success.

Mary Nelson, communications director, Erik’s Ranch & Retreats



Earlier this year, revisions to the autism diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) were announced. Parents of children diagnosed with autism were concerned that this change would affect services provided to their children. Even though the new criteria for diagnosis are touted as an improvement to diagnosis, which will provide better services, these parents’ fears seem to be justified.

After merely three months since the DSM-V came out, the Autism Action Network sent an action alert requesting information about how services are being eliminated for individuals with autism. It seems that there are institutions and organizations that have taken the DSM-V criteria and used it to say, “you no longer have autism; so you no longer receive services.”

I have to lament here that the funding battle to help our children just never seems to end. I believe unreasonable thinking has sentenced this population to warehousing or to depression, incarceration and even suicide. From the DSM-V standpoint, it seems we value money far more than the lives of these individuals—we are unwilling to incorporate changes that would make a space for different abilities.

So much of the battle has to do with misperceptions and misunderstandings and staying silent about them. There are ways to foment change and many are incremental. However, if we don’t raise our voices, little will change. Advocacy starts on an individual level and will not reach a global level until our voices are heard.

The Autism Action Network is one voice that is raised. Send your stories to this group and help turn the tide.