Mandi Mathis was introduced to the world of autism while running through the grocery store at a full sprint with her youngest son, Sawyer, tucked under her arm like a football while he was screaming at the top of his lungs. What she didn’t know then was that he was experiencing sensory overload.
Mandi is a practicing attorney so research, planning, and advocating come natural to her. Soon after her son received a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome and Sensory Processing Disorder, Mandi became a champion for those on the autism spectrum. She says that teaching Sawyer how to comfort, calm and advocate for himself is one of her greatest accomplishments.
She captured her son’s story in, The Littlest Inventor, a delightful children’s book. The Littlest Inventor captures effective self-advocacy of a spectrum child whose sensory processing issues prevent him from going to the grocery store. At first, the external stimuli is overwhelming. He is overwhelmed by an errand many of us take for granted. However, with his own self-awareness, access to the tools he needs, and support of his family, he turns a disaster into a huge success.
Mandi hopes that kids on the autism spectrum will read the book and be inspired and proud of their strengths and aptitudes. She also hopes that parents will read it to their kids and be reassured by the positive message.
“When Sawyer was diagnosed, positivity was not something I came across in my ASD research very often. I’d like to change that. When we believe in our kids and equip them to do their best, they will. We all understand the difficulties, but I really want more focus on strengths.”
This April, Mandi is joining other parents and teachers who have become “Acceptance Ambassadors” through Geek Club Books Acceptance Ambassador Initiative. Mandi is actively getting out in her community—at schools and other community forums—to talk about autism. The goal of the initiative is moving the public from “awareness” to “acceptance and inclusion.”
It’s important for me to raise awareness of the innate beauty, blessings and brilliance of neurodiversity. I want people to realize that we all have a purpose, a place, and we’re all important. My son Sawyer (age 6 ASD) sums it up best – ‘we’re all different.’ I don’t want autism to be stigmatized, and I want my son and all kids to be confident in themselves and their abilities; that’s why it’s important to me to talk about autism.
The Littlest Inventor has opened a lot of doors for Mandi to help inform people about autism. She wrote it because of an overall need for spectrum literary characters for all children to read about, get to know, and hopefully, love. Because the character is based on her son, Sawyer, she is able to talk about the importance of self-advocacy and the sensory issues that can make life very difficult for people on the spectrum.
“A fantastic side-effect of writing the book has been the conversation about autism it has started in my community, schools at which I have spoken, and media outlets. I am so excited for the opportunity to have these conversations which are so important to raising not only awareness, but acceptance, of those on the spectrum.”
Mandi believes that our differences make the world more exciting, beautiful and fun. It’s that outlook that inspires all of us to see autism in a brand new way!
Dandelion Moms! Why don’t you join our mighty group of Acceptance Ambassadors? You’ll find more information at geekclubbooks/acceptance-ambassador.