April is World Autism Month – a time to raise awareness, but more importantly emphasize acceptance, of those who are autistic.
Mike Petrovitch, Manager of Procurement and Administrative Services at The Orchard, and owner of Puerto Rican restaurant Que Chevere in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, shares 5 things his family members with autism have taught him.
A study shows that 1 in 54 children are identified with autism. In his family, both his son, Dominic, and his grandson, Jacob, have different variations of autism. As Mike describes it, this variation means that some people require high support and others seek low support. Having family members who are part of this community has taught him a lot. In the following personal editorial, he shares some of what he has learned.
Acceptance is key.
As a parent, it’s important to be supportive and accept my son and grandson for who they are as people. Some days are good and some days are tougher than others, but at the end of the day my family members always know they are loved and cherished. Be proud of your children, be proud of your family. I know I am proud of mine.
You must have patience.
Autistic individuals have varied communication styles, and these are conveyed differently from person to person. It’s important to exert patience. Dominic puts a lot of energy in creative outlets like movies, shows, and books. Dominic is smart and feels confident to live his life his own way. Over the years at The Orchard, the company provided me with a flexible schedule to adapt to my son’s needs. Looking back on things, my son grew up at The Orchard, even getting to know various members of the leadership team. All I want is to give my children and grandchildren the best life possible. That means I’ll often de-prioritize myself, but I’m okay with that.
Adapt and overcome.
While I served in the Marine Corps for six years I learned a military phrase that has always stayed with me throughout my life: adapt and overcome. Your lifestyle and routine changes when you have a family member who is autistic. However, what I’ve learned from this is ‘different’ and ‘change’ are not synonymous with negativity.
Be proud of their creative mind.
The autistic community is filled with individuals who have so many interests and passions, and a love for sharing these with the people they care about.
Autistic people think differently than neurotypical individuals, and this difference fuels an opportunity and space for diverse opinions, ideas, and perspectives. Dominic thinks outside of the box. He is curious, asks questions, and has a super creative mind. I’m proud of Dominic’s creativity and the way that he looks at things differently with an inquisitive outlook. Autism is known around the world. People I’ve come across learn a lot about Dominic upon meeting him. It’s so important to know that being autistic should never be equated to not being able to pursue dreams, life goals, and overall curiosities.
Strive to do better.
My family means the world to me, and I will always be there for them and provide for them. I recently opened my new restaurant Que Chevere, where a portion of all our proceeds are dedicated to raise awareness about autism. I see food as a vehicle to bring people together. I plan to employ those who are autistic to come work for the restaurant. Dominic has expressed interest in helping to serve the food, while Jacob, at the ripe age of 5 years old, is solely focused on eating it!