“When a family focuses on ability instead of disability, all things are possible…Love and acceptance is key. We need to interact with those with autism by taking an interest in their interests,” Amanda Rae Ross
By Ron Sandison
Amanda Ross is twenty-two—studying occupational therapy for her master degree at Stockton University and competing in Miss New Jersey 2017. When she was eleven her three-year old younger brother was diagnosed with autism. Some of the early signs Jake had autism included his throwing toys at the other kids in the daycare center, avoiding physical contact and being prone to sensory overload.
Amanda shares, “As a young child Jake loved to build train tracks covering the whole sunroom in our house. He loved everything about trains even the sounds.”
The Ross’ family received encouragement and support from Faces 4 Autism organization. Amanda shares, “When a family focuses on ability instead of disability, all things are possible. I hope for Jake to develop relationship skills so one day I can be an aunt. Love and acceptance is key. We need to interact with those with autism by taking an interest in their interests.”
Some of the positive effects Jake has on his family are viewing the world differently – not just hurrying to achieve the American dream but enjoying life like a child. Jake has a passion for tornadoes and storms. This passion has an impact on the whole family.
Jake has also taught his family to be patient toward others by listening carefully and intently—every child has an amazing story to share if we are willing to take time to hear.
Amanda desires to be Miss New Jersey so she can help people with autism like her brother and create an understanding of neurodiversity. She said, “I hope to travel around New Jersey sharing my brother’s story. Every mind is different and thinks uniquely. Sensory issues can be a challenge—a child with autism one minute can be calm and the next have a meltdown. My messages creates an understanding of sensory issues and also meltdowns.”
Amanda hosted a pajamas girl-night for young women with autism at her church. When the women arrived for the event they were shy and afraid to speak but before the night was over they were all laughing, dancing, and having a great time. Amanda said, “I gained a bunch of new friends and we were able to learn from each other.”
Amanda’s brother has taught her not to see the disability but the person. “People with autism can be lots of fun and humorous. Whenever I sing a goofy song in my pajamas, Jake laughs and announces, ‘Oh, Miss NJ’s don’t behave like that!'”
Beauty pageants have provided Amanda with a platform to create love and understanding of autism. “People with autism should not be feared but valued. We can learn from them honesty, integrity and faithfulness but only if we give them a chance.”
Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and Charisma House is publishing his book on 4/5/16, A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice: Biblical Wisdom. He has over 10,000 Scriptures memorized including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.
Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with their daughter, Makayla Marie, and pet rabbit, Babs, and cat, Frishma. Checkout his website Spectrum Inclusion at www.spectruminclusion.com. You can contact Ron on Facebook or email him at email@example.com