Sheltered Islander

Shelter Islander: Making Strides Toward Understanding Autism

Usually my columns are composed of lightweight extemporanea with a guarantee of 2% pure truth. Today will be serious because autism is happening once in every 94 births now and over 90% of the affected children
are boys.
We are witnessing a generation of Asperger’s/autistic children who will be entering society and we have no national plan on what to do with them. To give you a way to gauge the problem, in 1957 2.4 children out of 100 would contract polio. As of today, 1.22 children out of 100 will be born with autism, and the number is still climbing. In 1990, when I had my autistic son, the ratio was 1 in 10,000 births. In 22 years we have gone from 1 in 10,000 to a little more than 1 in 100. This is a fast-moving train and we all need to get onboard to slow this thing down. The first thing we need is to educate ourselves. Next is funding for research. Third is to be prepared to provide for these individuals throughout their lives, not just the basics, but to provide vocational training and meaningful employment for those who can participate.
Alex Olinkiewicz of Shelter Island is a high-functioning young adult with Asperger’s, the mildest form of Autism. Alex, like Temple Grandin, Ph.D., an autistic adult, has the ability to articulate the experience of his condition, providing the rest of us with incredibly valuable insights. He has a YouTube video called “In My Mind” that is fascinating, and frightening with over 1,300,000 viewers. (Watch it—you will enjoy it.)

Alex, with the assistance of Dr. Richard OConnell, a New York Counselor of the Year and award winning author, has written a book, In My Mind; A Journey through Life with Asperger’s/Autism. There will be a book signing at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor on Saturday, Sept. 1 from 10 a.m. to noon. You can also order the book from
Please turn out for this most worthy cause and this brave young man. As Alex so beautifully, explains:
“I just hope that because of this book, and showing you the way I learn, and the way I express how I feel, that you guys can understand me much better. And treat people with Asperger’s as equals, and calmly give more respect to us, and treat us right, and not consider us as just plain odd people who want to get what they want. And if so, I’ll finally be understood, and have a break once in a while.”
If you have an autistic child, have a good cry. Then let go of what society defines as normal and create a new normal for you and your child. Nobody loves your child, understands your child, or will fight for them, like you will. Until they can speak, you are their voice. Reach out to other parents fighting the good fight, and if that fails, you can email me at sallyflynnknows@
One hour in the trenches with me and you’ll realize our three best weapons are laughter, tears, and to invite anyone who criticizes your parenting to take your autistic child home for a day to see what they can do…they’ll be calling you within an hour to take the kid back.

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