Sheletta Brundidge became an author after her daughter Cameron came home from elementary school bummed out that the library did not have any books about people like her – a young African American girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Brundidge, a nationally known advocate whose three of four kids have been diagnosed with ASD, planned to launch her first book, “Cameron Goes to School” during April, which is National Autism Awareness Month.
Social distancing practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, forced Brundidge to cancel a celebration event bringing together librarians from across the Midwest.
But seeing her children face challenges at home after losing the stability and structure of the school environment, she felt it was important to adapt rather than delay – so, instead, Cameron read the book on Facebook Live.
“These kids are not going to stop having autism just because [the pandemic] has taken over our world,” said Brundidge. “In fact, now, more than ever, families who have special needs children need encouragement.”
In a recent episode of the U.S. Bank Podcast, Brundidge talked about navigating through the pandemic, writing the book and, more broadly, about growing from a scared parent into an energetic advocate. In addition to streaming below, the episode is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and more.
Brundidge had recently spoken at an event hosted by the Disability Business Resource Group (BRG) at U.S. Bank. One of a number of BRGS at the company, it brings together community members and allies for networking, development and education. She was interviewed by Kelly Risser, the Disability BRG president and a fellow autism parent.
U.S. Bank has been recognized as a leading employer for disability inclusion, with honors including being named a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion by the AAPD and Disability:IN as well as being named a Leading Disability Employer by The National Organization on Disability. The company also has several hiring programs across the country through which it partners with nonprofits to hire individuals with autism.
“Through the BRG, we aim to make sure that our employees of all abilities have the resources they need to be successful,” said Risser. She added that, as a parent, this has meant equipping her children with the confidence to speak up knowing that they bring a unique and valuable perspective to the world.
For Brundidge, that same type of philosophy drives her advocacy work. From writing the book to appearances on national media, she aims to help people young and old understand autism.
“If you ask my kids what autism means, they’ll just say ‘It means I learn differently,’” she said, “‘The way my teachers teach me something is a little bit different than the way they teach my friends. It’s just that we are different.’”
She added, with an exclamation point, “And aren’t we all different anyway? Different is a special thing!”
Written by Pat Swanson of U.S. Bank.