A Mother’s Love | My Son is Autistic and I am His Voice.

“I don’t want him or anyone else to view him as disabled or dysfunctional because he’s not.

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All that I am, or hope to be I owe to my mother. But, I also owe to my sister.

My sister Avi is my only sibling. It’s just us two! I remember the day she told me she was expecting. I cried (like I do with everything), and I told her I couldn’t wait to be an aunt! Little did we know about the cheese puff, dinosaur loving bundle of joy that would soon be heading our way.

Since the day she knew she would be a mother, the love my sister has for her son grew fonder by the day. Even when the day came that she began to notice things about her child. She promised to be his protector, his voice, and most importantly the most loving mother to God’s special gift: her baby boy.

A Mother’s Love | My Son is Autistic and I am His Voice

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Did you know what Autism was before Xahir was diagnosed?

– I had heard of autism, but never knew in depth what it required of the parent, child or occupational therapist to overcome or better the diagnosis.

How old was he when you noticed he was different? What were you seeing?

– Xahir walked, crawled and rolled way before his time, but the language barrier with certain interactions wasn’t there. At times, he would respond to his name and other times he wouldn’t. One thing is for sure, he knew who his family was but something triggered within me when other children his age were pointing out colors, making animal noises and putting two and two together.

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What does most of his actions/behavior consist of?

– He loves anything that spins, propellers, wheels, dinosaurs and he loves to wave his hands in front of his face. I’m not sure what “that” means to him, but he thoroughly enjoys it. He is very loving, goofy and energetic but doesn’t like for certain routines you’ve changed.

What are his strengths?

– Anything he sets his mind to, he will do. If I look and say “you can’t stack that, it won’t work,” he proves me wrong every time. He’s amazing.

What are his weaknesses?

– Verbal communication.

How is he on his worst days?

– I don’t think he has bad days, I just think he has such high expectations for the way he wants things to be or go, so when they don’t – he throws a fit…like any child.

“He is the seed that God has planted in my life and I will nurture him…”

How is he on his best days?

– Loving, goofy, carefree and constantly building and construction his newest inventions.

How does he communicate with you?

– Usually, he will pull me in whatever direction it is that he wants me to go. It’s almost like sign language, but he communicates with sounds, small words and gestures.

What are his favorite things to do?

– Build and stack things, play with his dinosaurs, dance, watch his favorite movies and be outside…usually chasing lizards and birds.


In all honesty, has all of this been hard on you?

– It has, but I know he was gifted to me from God for reasons I cannot fathom. I know we have many more obstacles to overcome, but I know it’s all in due time. It could be worse; he could be high functioning and require medication to be “himself,” so when I feel like complaining, I just remind myself of that.

Has all of this made you more protective of your son? Why?

– For sure. Because I don’t want him or anyone else to view him as disabled or dysfunctional because he’s not. He just operates differently and that’s the biggest misconception with any diagnosis. Until he can speak and defend for himself, I am his voice and his guardian of protection.

What is something you want him to know?

– I want him to know that his parents love him, care for him and will always be there for him – even when he thinks he’s got it all under control. He is the seed that God has planted in my life and I will nurture him until he is fully flourished into the intelligent young man I know he is.

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What’s your message to parents/caregivers just like you with children on the spectrum?

– To be aware and accepting – not ignorant and blind to the needs of your child(ren). The best thing to do is accept the differences, the help and the diagnosis so that your child is getting all the help he/she needs to be a functioning child; prepared for the real world. We cannot delete or change the diagnosis, but we can certainly make the best with what we have.


 

Here’s to my sister, my nephew and all of the families effected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. I love you to pieces!

-Aa

Operation: Piece Bag

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Piece Bags | Sensory toys for children on the spectrum

Why is a puzzle piece the symbol for Autism?

It is a representation of how complex and mysterious children are with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder.) As we spend time working on puzzles and putting them together, it’s apparent that EVERY puzzle piece is DIFFERENT in some way.

With my platform through the Miss America Organization: Artistic or Autistic? A puzzle within itself, I decided to create Piece Bags! Sensory toys for children on the spectrum. Here is a photo documentary from an Autism Speaks Walk in Tampa, Florida. I was able to pass out 100 Piece Bags: hand crafted and made with love!

Let the mission begin!

Of course, just about everything I do in life is Pinterest inspired. Without a doubt, using the worlds most creative app/website helped me figure out how to put everything together! #TypicalAaliyah

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How was the mission planned?  

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I always wanted to do more with my platform, but I wasn’t sure how. The world of Autism is still fairly new to my family and we are still learning more each day about my nephew. He is the light out our lives! If you ever get the chance to meet him, your face will hurt from smiling and laughing so much. He’s loving, spunky, and views the world in a way we never will. With the surplus of toys that he has, it inspired me to put together some of his favorite things and create them for other children to enjoy just like him!

Mission in action: Operation Piece Bag has commenced!

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I was obsessed with their shirts. How cute!

One of my Sunshine Princesses and I, Sophia had a blast watching every child’s face light up as we handed them a Piece Bag! As you can see (photo in the middle), many of the kids wanted to open their bags immediately and play with their new sensory toys.

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Go Mom! Go Dad!

IMG_0835My parents helped me finish the final 20 Piece Bags in my apartment. Woohoo!

To be completely honest, making the Piece Bags got a little overwhelming and stressful for me. I felt as if they weren’t good enough! I was scared to pass them out and get a reaction that would make me feel as if I didn’t do the job right. I’m so happy and elated that all 100 children proved to me how the smallest things can go a long way!


Mission Complete

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It’s important to remember that life isn’t all about you. We weren’t put on this Earth to only focus on ourselves, and the issues that we face behind closed doors. Life is so short, and we should spend a lot of that time caring about our fellow human beings. We may not have it all, but we should do the best we can to give something of ours to others! Donate a can of non-perishable foods to a shelter, give away clothes, or even advocate to others who may not have the same abilities as you do.

Here’s to my new project. Operation: Piece Bags! 100 down, forever to go.

Piece out!

-Aa

Miss Pasco County Fair 2017

Click this link and take the oath to Light It Up Blue! 

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Miss America Serves Day | Compassion in Action!

Compassion in Action

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Service, scholarship, style and success. These four words mold together and create the distinct four-point Miss America crown that sits on top of the heads of hundreds of titleholders across the nation. Miss America Serves Day is an annual event that allows titleholders in each state to join forces and serve the community. As the Miss Florida Class of 2017, we filled 400 book-bags with food for children in the area so that they would not go hungry at home on the weekends. Check out how we spent Miss America Serves Day with this year’s project: Compassion in Action!

1 in 5 

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1 in 5 children lack the proper access to food each year. Startling, isn’t it? Children and their families who are confronted with these issues need our help and support! With the Compassion in Action project, help is surely on the way. In less than an hour, all of these boxes were broken down and the products inside made their way into backpacks for 400 children! 1 in 5 children do not know what they will eat for their next meal. The numbers are staggering. People across our nation are continuously trying to help. We were lucky to work with the men and women at Florida Baptist Children’s Home! They have been providing Christ centered services for abused, neglected, and orphaned children since 1904.

Time to get packing!

 To make this project possible, each titleholder needed donations from friends and family. We collected food items of all sorts and on April 8th, they were all organized by group and separated once again. But, this time packed with love and ready for 400 children to receive!

The Boutique

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Everyday, we wake up and throw clothes on and head out the door. More than likely,  we have all screamed “I have nothing to wear!” when we often have a closet full of shoes, jackets, and jeans. The next  part of the Compassion in Action Project was to restock a boutique. This special room contained free clothing for babies, women, men, and children. Miss Florida 2016, Courtney Sexton said to us before going in the boutique that “We want them to feel as if they’re in Forever 21.” To me, this was important and stuck with me the entire day. It reminded me to do my best, and even give my all for the sake of other people. The girls and I were able to go inside to fix, add, and help tidy up the boutique. Love and sincerity filled the room as we thought of the people who  would soon wear these clothes. The Boutique was even better than Forever 21! (And a lot cleaner, too.)

The center we volunteered with provides shelter, food, love, and clothing for foster children, and even sex trafficking victims. The Miss Florida contestants had a multitude of items to add to this large wardrobe!


This is my first year competing in pageants through the Miss America Organization, and already I can see why so many people are in love with this program! I cannot wait for next year Miss America Serves day. You’ll be amazed at how many lives you touch when you put your Compassion in Action!

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Thanks for reading!

-Aa (and the Miss Florida Class of 2017!)

Miss Florida’s Instagram | Miss Florida’s Facebook Page |

The Heart of Florida | Pasco County Fair

Happy Fair Day!

So far, being Miss Pasco County Fair has been filled with so much fun, laughter, and farm animals! Not too long ago the fair came into town and I got the chance to connect with people in the community, emcee pageants and even have a photoshoot!

Here are photos from this year’s Pasco County Fair.

Celebrating 70 years of sparkle!

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Photos taken by Gary Hatrick.

We had a sisterhood photoshoot and it was so much fun! I’ve never won a goldfish when playing this game at the fair, and I had some hope that I would considering I had a sparkly crown on my head but, unfortunately I missed.

Bumper Cars!

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I LOVE bumper cars. I may or may not drive like this in real life so that would explain the reaction from Miss Teen Heart. Hold on tight girl!

Crowns vs. Fair Rides

IMG_7223Talk about a before and after shot! Olivia and I thought our crowns were secure, but according to this ride they weren’t secure enough. I wasn’t ready for her crown to fly off and hit someone – not a good look!

Monkey Business

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I think we did a good job playing Matchmaker at the Pasco County Prince and Princess Pageant. I mean, just look at these two!

Sunshine Princess Program

The Miss America Organization has a great way of inspiring young boys and girls across the nation to be leaders in their community.Through the Prince and Princess Program, titleholders are able to mentor children ages 5-12 and offer them the opportunity to make appearances with them, and even create life long friendships through mentoring!

I surprised my two Sunshine Princesses Taylor and Kaylee with goodie bags. (My third Princess, Sophia was not able to make it.) They even get to go with me to Miss Florida and be on stage with me. Cool, right?


The Pasco County Fair along with the Miss Pasco County Scholarship Pageant have been going on for 70 years, and it was so exciting to be apart of this year’s anniversary! Celebrating 7o years of sparkle.

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-Aa

Miss Pasco County Fair 2017

Your New Miss Pasco County Fair is…

Hi everyone! If you’re reading this, then I want to thank you- even if we’ve never spoke to each other, for following up with me in my journey. You see, the Miss America Organization is something I’ve always wanted to be apart of ever since I was in Middle School. I never thought I was fit for the part and with amazing friends, their unbelievable mom’s, family members, and coaches, I was able to reach one milestones of many finish lines tonight.

Your new Miss Pasco County Fair is: Aaliyah Manning!

*Raven Symone voice* Yup, that’s me!

Well, I can’t believe I’m doing this. You know those embarrassing Facebook photos nobody shares?  Yeah… here are some of mine.

If you were to tell me in middle school I was going to compete in the Miss America Organization, I would not believe you. With glasses, acne, and a mouth full of braces I would be quick to turn you away. Being told I was “too skinny, or too dark” or that “my eyes were too big, or my teeth weren’t straight enough” were things that I had become accustomed to. I was an extremely bubbly girl growing up, and I still am. However, inside I was always confused and truly unaware of how beauty could also radiate from the inside.


On Saturday, January 21st I competed in the Miss Pasco County; County Fair pageant.

Opening number and onstage question

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Yup. That’s the face of a winner up there! In the beginning of the pageant, each contestant must answer an impromptu question out of a bowl. My question was: “In your opinion, what do you think about celebrities being open about their political views? ” Try answering that in 20 seconds!

Talent

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Probably my favorite part of talent: the finishing smile! All of my friends and family know just how much “River Flows in You” by Yiruma means to me. I first played this song when my mother returned home from deployment in Iraq. My love for the Piano began at the age of 5 in Seoul, Korea where I started taking lessons.

Crowning

This is the moment where I had a full out heart attack. Every sappy and happy emotion consumed me at the same time! I had dreamed of this moment: Having the four point crowned pinned on my head, along with a gorgeous white sash to bring it together. Beyond the sparkly dress, false eyelashes, and fake nails I had finally become apart of something that’s bigger than me.

The Miss America Organization allows young women like myself to be a voice in their community. The ladies in this system are educated, well rounded, and ambitious. Many of them wanting to be lawyers, nurses, teachers, or even a journalist like me. If you want to be a leader in your community, and connect with people who are truly a breath of fresh air, there’s no other place I’d recommend.

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To my beautiful friends, even the ones that couldn’t make it – I love you. Thank you for being just like the pageant moms straight out of Toddlers and Tiaras! I can’t imagine anyone else being so willing to lose their voice for me as I prance around the stage. Thank you for traveling right behind me, and for always being there as I glance out into the crowd.

The 4 points of the Crown: Style, Succsess, Service, Scholarship

Although there isn’t a 5th point to the crown, if there was one, it would definitely stand for Sisterhood.

In just a month’s time, I have met some amazing women. Miss Pasco County 2016 told me something that I will hold near and dear to my heart forever. The day of the pageant as we began practicing during rehearsals, she reminded us of something: “Don’t look left, or look right. Look Within.” (Hi Olivia! Love ya sister.)

In life, we compare ourselves constantly. We always think of the worst, or that someone else is a better fit for something if we’re in a competition. Instead of always looking around you, focus on yourself and celebrate YOU!

NEVER think you’re not “___” enough.


I am so excited, blessed, honored, and everything in between to be your Miss Pasco County Fair 2017! Next stop: Miss Florida!  img_6405

It’s all about the journey.

-Aa

Miss Pasco County Fair 2017

When you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. | First Preliminary

 

To get what you want in life, you have to be content with stepping outside of your bubble. In fact, you have to be so content, focused, and driven that you NEVER get back in it.

Ever since I was a little girl, I always dreamed of competing in the Miss America Organization. There was something about it that always seemed so fascinating to me. Similar to what we all see from the exterior: beautiful women, gorgeous crowns, stunning gowns, and exceptionally brilliant minds that also wish for “World Peace.” On December 3rd, 2016 I became one of those girls.

I had FINALLY participated in a Miss America Organization (MAO) preliminary pageant. Months prior to the pageant, I spent my time carefully transforming myself into “one of those girls.” img_5729

I had to put together a platform. (An issue or cause that you wish to bring to light/be an advocate for.) I chose Autism Awareness, because now it hits very close to home within my family.

I even began to shop for all of the outfits I would need. The one that terrified me the most: swimwear. Of course, I love my body and it’s important that every single young lady on this Earth does too! However, I’ve had a scar on my stomach from surgery ever since I was a few days old, and after being bullied about it for so long, I still feel hesitant that anytime I wear a swimsuit someone will ask me “Hey, what’s that?”

My coaches made me more aware of social issues that, as an 18 year-old teenage girl, I had never payed much attention to such as: The economy, fiscal cliffs, stem-cell research, and cloning. I had to do my research because it is so vital in the MAO system that you’re aware of social issues, and how to address them. I even had to prepare myself to speak in front of 5 judges for a 10 minute interview. Mind boggling, right?


A journey through my day

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My day began around 7:30 am when I woke up to get ready! Everything is in one day: interview, rehearsal, and then it’s show time. Not only did I have to be at my interview 30 minutes early, but I also had to drive an hour away. My interview with the judges was phenomenal! Through my journey as a military brat, my platform, and interest in mass media there were so many things to talk bout.

Rehearsals/Getting ready

I met Miss Florida, Courtney Sexton while we were eating lunch and I nearly almost choked on my food! (Kidding…maybe) Everyone we were surrounded by from the contestants, to the backstage crew, and MC’s were kind, and helpful people and I was truly thankful for them.

When it became time to get ready, everyone was so willing to share all they had. Mirrors, bobby pins, and of course the infamous “butt glue.” (It’s needed, I promise!)

Show Time

“Alright girls, time to go – let’s go let’s go!” The lady back stage told us. Everyone took one last second to add an extra bobby pin, an extra layer of lipstick, and add an extra stroke of mascara. We prayed before going on stage, and we always yelled “good luck!” before the contestant in front of us went out into the crowd.

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Go Me!

That night at my first prelim, I could’ve been asked anything under the sun and it wouldn’t have phased me. I was so excited to get out there, and strut my stuff! (Even though I don’t have too much to strut.) From swimwear, to talent, and evening gown I prayed to the sweet baby Jesus above each time I set foot into the spotlight.

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The night went by so fast, and before I knew it we were all lined up on stage waiting to hear the final results.

I received the Interview Award .(The highest amount of points you can get out of any event in the pageant. It’s important!) I was so proud of myself. My coaches pushed me and worked hard with me to always make sure I was answering any questions to my upmost potential. Interview is more than being asked “What’s your favorite color? How can we get world peace?” I was asked about the North Dakota Pipeline issue, Black Lives Matter, The 2nd Amendment, and many other social issues.

Finally – it was time for “the envelope.” I looked into the stage lights above me as they began naming the runner ups. My night went perfectly. It was everything I imagined it to be, and I simply had to thank the King up above for allowing me to feel this way.

I was the 1st runner up At my FIRST prelim in the MAO! I was beyond excited, to hear my name be called. I couldn’t believe I had made it this far. It was beyond “winning.” All of the girls and I won. We were doing things most people wouldn’t dare to do. I was a winner for stepping outside of my bubble, and for chasing my dreams.

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Miss Apopka 2016 Arianna Beyer

Miss Florida Courtney Sexton

Friends, family, and new sisters!


When you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.

That night, I did exactly that. For those who don’t know, you can compete in MAO until you’re 24. I’m only 18, so my journey has just begun! I’m so excited to see what’s in store for me.

Stay updated with my journey for the crown on this new tab: The Miss America Organization.

Continue to chase your dreams!

-Aa

 

Be Fearless In The Pursuit Of What Sets Your Soul On Fire

I think it’s important that everyone lives by a quote to motto. One that hits home, or truly speaks to you.

For me, it’s to “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

In life, (especially mine) there was always the fear of not being enough. I was always bullying myself, criticizing, and comparing. Because of this, I often found myself giving 50% instead of 100%. I would be hesitant, and even wait for someone else to make the first move.

BUT THAT’S NOT HOW I WANT TO LIVE THE REST OF MY LIFE! 

You have to be fearless. Live in faith and not be afraid to fall; to fail, or lose. Don’t worry about the “What if’s!” It’s not about what you have planned, but what your God has planned for you. Never focus on all the things that could go wrong. Instead, focus on what could go right. Once you do that, you’ll realize that doors will open in a multitude of ways. You’ll even begin creating new, healthier paths with people.

I ask one thing of you: whatever it is your passionate about, whatever it is that starts a flame into your life: pursue it and don’t let the fire burn out. If you love doing something, why on Earth would you talk yourself out of being your best?

You are an individual, and everyday you should act like one! The only person who will get you where you want to be – is you! Hard work, dedication, and most importantly: a positive mindset will get you from start to finish every time.