ARTICLE: Why I quit coffee (Midland Express, Sep 2015)

Why I quit coffee (Original article posted at Midland Express)

For many of us, coffee is a daily necessity and just the thing to get us through a long day at the office.

But coffee was just one of many luxuries foregone over the month of August, during the I CAN Network’s AWEgust for AWEtism fundraising campaign.

AWEgust for AWEtism called for people to give up the items they thought they couldn’t live without for a whole month, to raise awareness of the challenges faced by those on the autism spectrum as well as funds to support the I CAN Network in creating a world that benefits from embracing autism.

Riddells Creek local Kristie Murden gave up her daily latte because she knew it would be genuinely difficult for her.

“When I saw the AWEgust for AWEtism campaign, I tried to think of something that would challenge me so I could really throw myself into it with passion,” she said.

“Having a latte every day has become my ‘switch off’ habit – it’s an enjoyable part of my daily ritual … it’s hard to break a habit!”

For Ms Murden, there was a personal element to the fundraiser; three years ago, her son Gus was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

She knew that breaking her coffee habit was just a minor inconvenience compared to the unique difficulties that people like Gus face on a daily basis.

Early in his life, Gus had difficulty understanding what he and others were saying, even though “his expressive language [was] clear as a bell,” his mother said.

More recently, activities that are a cause for excitement and enjoyment in other kids can be a source of sensory overload for Gus.

“The entrance to a movie theatre usually gets him … the loud music, the echo in the hall, the sound and smell of the popcorn, the movement of the people. Those things separately are fine, put them all together and it’s sometimes too much. Sometimes his headphones work to dull one of the senses and make it okay, sometimes we have to leave. Depends on the day,” Ms Murden explained.

“Giving up my daily latte is nothing in comparison to the challenges my very own little superhero faces every day, but it’s something that those close to me know I love – and it’s paying off with the fundraising!”

Ms Murden originally set her fundraising goal at $700 – but thanks to the generosity of her supporters, she quickly broke the $1300 mark. Her new goal is $1500, which she hopes to reach with just a few weeks of the fundraiser left.

She hopes that along with funds, the AWEgust campaign will have raised awareness and acceptance of autism in the wider community.

“I would love to see our community get to a point where they don’t just accept autism, they celebrate it! It’s an amazing world we’ve found ourselves in – Gus has been my life’s biggest teacher!” Ms Murden said.

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