Autism Matters

Unlocking the Pieces

Words By Cheryl Pangborn

Voices like that of a young Wesley Reynolds, a vibrant individual with autism, are shining through with a brilliance that illuminates the intricate challenges and triumphs of living with this condition.

Read Cheryl’s full story about exploration into the profound connection and insight that Wesley strives to create. Her narrative is a testament to the power of communication and community in bridging the gaps of understanding and empathy.

What Exactly Do We Know About Autism?

Individuals with autism have challenges with sensory processing. While some struggle to communicate, some might have issues socializing and may have delayed cognitive and learning skills. While there is no cure, experts have come a long way in understanding autism and in finding ways to create a better quality of life and understanding for these special people.

Wesley Reynolds is piloting the fight to help those with autism because, he too, has this special ability. Wesley is a joy to speak with. He is well spoken with exceptional communication skills. He has worked at Plantation Lumber in Richmond Hill for 12 years and enjoys video games, interacting with his cousins and nieces, and lives happily at home with his parents. Right now, Wesley is extremely enthusiastic about trying to get a local autism group established through his Facebook page @Autism Matters.

“I want this to be a safe space for people with autism to talk about their struggles, fears and difficulties without any judgment,” he tells me as he explains his mission.

Wesley says he has a unique perspective when he meets people with autism because he truly understands their frustrations. He recalls that he was very nervous when he first started his job. “I would hide in the back and I didn’t want to talk to or look at anyone.” Fortunately, his co-workers patiently helped him overcome his anxiety and he now feels a sense of confidence he hopes to pass on to others. He even has a little side hustle at his job. “I bought gumball machines on Amazon and put them in the store, so I have my own little business at my job,” he beams.

Wesley’s special power is that he has language and is able to be the voice for so many who do not.

As the mother of a 25-year-old son with autism, who has very little communication ability, I’ve always been eager to have some insight into autism’s unique and puzzling behaviors. Wes explains that some people with autism act “weird” sometimes and people don’t understand why, so it makes them uncomfortable. “I hit my hands together a lot and some people with autism make loud noises or jump up and down, which is called stimming,” he says. He further explains that when he hits his hands together, it’s not to be disruptive, but in fact it offers him a sense of calm and makes him feel better. “People with autism learn very differently and they are really smart, but they need extra time and support to learn.” His vision for his autism group is to start discussions about these types of things to hopefully help parents, siblings and people with autism cope better and feel accepted.

Join Wesley’s Facebook Group by clicking on the image below:

He credits Lisa Ainsworth, a friend and wife of a co-worker, for helping him get the Facebook group up and running. “Wes is such a great guy and hard worker. He really wanted to do an autism page on Facebook and I couldn’t help but say yes to being a co-admin with him,” she says. “I have two kids and a brother who deal with autism, so helping him was a no-brainer for me.”

Wes is thrilled that he already has 50 members in the group. He’s posting news and information about things the autism community will care about and be encouraged by. “Mr. Mayor Russ made an important decree, that April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. I am so glad for this. You can read all about it on my page.”

Wes says his long-term goals include starting a monthly meeting here in town so he can bring people with autism together, and through their interaction, help them feel stronger and accepted. He also hopes to expand the group on a much larger scale outside of Georgia. “I think together we can unlock the pieces inside ourselves and show the world how important we are. I think I can do that because I have autism, too.”

Wes’ story is such an inspiration as he maneuvers through his own challenges with a heart to advocate for those with autism on all levels. There is no doubt that he will go on to do great things while spreading the message that Autism Matters!