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COVID-19 doesn't stop Autism Awareness Month

This week the CDC announced that 1 in 54 children is now diagnosed with autism. April is Autism Awareness Month.

COVID-19 forced us to surrender. But when a Cottage Grove woman was told to cancel her book launch, she didn't.

And Sheletta Brundidge said the book she authored, "Cameron Goes to School," is needed now more than ever.

Sheletta Brundidge knows every story has a plot twist. But an autism diagnosis during chapter two of her daughter's  life was only the beginning.

"When my daughter was two years old and she was diagnosed with autism. I said 'Okay, this is it. She is never going to get married. She is never going to college. She will never have the job she wants,'" Brundidge said. "I never in a million years, Adrienne, dreamed my daughter would live the life I wanted her to live. Three years later this girl is in a regular first grade classroom with no special education designation. She doesn’t need any extra help to do her work. She went from severely delayed to above average."

"Cameron Goes to School," is a tool to help kids and parents  understand others who live with autism.  

"It is the story of my daughter’s autism journey as she prepares to go off to Kindergarten," she said. "My daughter kept saying, ‘mommy, none of the girls in my class will invite me for a play date or to their house for birthday parties."

Brundidge said parents told her other children were labeling her daughter "mean"  because she wouldn't talk to them. 

"She couldn't talk outside the house. I am like while we are all educating adults about autism and all of those things, nobody is educating the children," Brundidge said. 

Brundidge said she hopes the book fills the void. 

Sheletta had a planned book launch plus classroom visits across the metro to coincide with Autism Awareness Month in April. COVID-19 changed everything.

"These kids do not stop having autism in April. This is our month," she said. "I said a prayer and God gave me an answer." Instead of reading in classrooms, she is turning to Facebook live for reading sessions. "I let the parents know who are sitting at home, who don’t have any more library books to check out, this book is available."

Brundidge  hopes others parents will try to understand the challenges parents raising children with autism face. According to the Mayo Clinic, some children show signs of autism spectrum disorder in early infancy, such as reduced eye contact, lack of response to their name or indifference toward caregivers. 

Related: /article/news/video-raises-awareness-about-autism/89-616042722 

"If we can teach them, the young children,  the early readers about autism then they can understand and identify how they can help their friends who do have autism," Brundidge said. 

 Sheletta Brundidge knows the risk of waiting to get kids tested. The mother of four, three who live with autism,  also wants to make sure parents get their children tested for autism.

At the time of this report, Cameron Goes to School was ranked #31 on the best seller list of kids disability books sold on Amazon. Minnesota based Red Balloon Bookshop is also  taking online orders and have pick up and delivery. 

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