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A year in our rearview mirror...what it looked like to us.

What we learned during a pandemic. Our year in review:

This week marks when the world around us changed one year ago.

When the world around us shut down a year ago we knew that we needed to jump into action. We knew that some of our autism and ADHD community might struggle with the sudden schedule changes, the sensory struggles of learning to wear masks and using sanitizer, missing routines, social distancing, and the anxiety of not know why the world was different almost overnight. Our worry was that sudden changes like these can really cause a hardship in learning and growth and could cause regression in some tough cases.

We knew that the shutdown of routines and security was going to hit our community hard. We saw it coming and we got worried, and maybe even scared. We were all a little scared at this point, right? The unknown can be scary for anyone, especially our community members!

So, we did what we could to move quickly to try to fill the huge gaps that the pandemic began to create.

*By March 14, 2020, we began streaming our Daily Lunch Bunch episodes so that we could still cook (virtually) with any of our villagers. We streamed cooking classes 6 days a week until the summer break was over. This took a team of educators and a few local celebrities to pull off this huge task. It was a huge success and we still have many of these videos on YouTube.

*Cooking Autism happily supported two local food banks as they began working hard to feed our area as jobs were closing and families were struggling. Thank you to Stafford Food Security and the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank for working hard to feed families!

*Next, we had the amazing opportunity to help provide sensory support items to families who were struggling. Sensory swings, trampolines, bubble lamps, body socks, playdoh, kinetic sand, weighted vests, and blankets, etc. During uncertainty, our community helped us raised the funds to support many families in this fashion. Thank you!

*Then some of our community members returned to their schools for ESY during the summer and then to their normal scheduled Special Education classes in August/September. Much of our special needs community was, and still is, considered high risk so the school systems welcomed them back very quickly so that they could continue their education in person or virtually. This meant that our SpEd teachers needed our support.... they needed grants and needed them ASAP! We were happy to deliver.

*Because of community support we were able to support over 600 students for the entire year! Teachers would now have access to extra funds so that they could continue their life-skills programs in whatever capacity that looked like. Students could no longer share resources and supplies, needed to remain socially distanced, and needed to adapt to hand washing several times a day and wearing masks.

*Next, we began our virtual social and enrichment classes online. Cooking, crafting, reading, art, STEM, gaming, you name it, we probably did it. Our goal was to keep our community members active and social. We grew so much, and our community taught me, April, so much along the way. We are still running social and enrichment classes, today!

*Finally, we partnered with the Fredericksburg Nationals to provide sensory support bags, social stories, and sensory stories to support our community members as they enjoy watching America's Favorite Pastime. Play ball!

Now, a year later, we look back and smile! Our village grew so much! You have taught us so much! We are so much stronger because of you and your support. We even received a commendation, House Resolution # 524, from Delegate Joshua Cole and the Commonwealth of Virginia General Assembly. Thank you! It truly takes a village, and we are so proud to be a part of your village! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

How can you help us as we help our special needs community build a strong foundation? We can always use support. You can help by;

*Sharing our mission with your friends, loved ones, church, and place of employment

*Sign up for our Autism Walk/Race

*Purchase a raffle ticket to win a car!

*Become a sponsor of any of our amazing events!

*Start a Facebook fundraiser in the name of CookingAutism.

*Volunteer! We always need volunteers to help with events and event preparation!Email april@CookingAutism.Org

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