To celebrate 100 years, JOLLY TIME Pop Corn will be awarding 100 $1,000 grants to people and organizations around the country who bring joy and happiness to others by doing good in their communities.

Do you know someone who deserves a thank you for their good deeds? Someone with a big heart who does charitable work? To nominate someone, visit the Kernels of Kindness site today.

My Kernels of Kindness Story
Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that I’m SO in love with my neighborhood. It’s a very well-connected neighborhood filled with amazing people. But, there is one person who stands out not only as a fun, encouraging and beautiful friend and mama, but also as a woman who makes things happen, my neighbor and friend Heidi. This is her story.

Heidi started Nora’s Network in honor of her daughter who was diagnosed with autism.

Technology and Nora’s story
Opportunities for children with autism in the last ten years since technology became accessible is night and day according to Heidi.

Technology gives children with autism a voice to be heard, a tool to be heard. Technology is a whole new world. -Heidi

When Nora was just four years old, her speech teacher brought a new device, called an iPad, to her home.

“We bought one that day,” Heidi said.  “We knew it made her happy and she was playing with it.” For Heidi and her husband, that was all that mattered. Never did Heidi imagine that this new device would actually be a tool that would teach Nora and positively impact her life in so many ways.

Seven or eight months after purchasing the iPad, Nora was spelling words that her peers, grade and age wise, were not spelling. “A whole different world opened up to us,” Heidi said. “We  thought it was just something she liked and it wasn’t invasive. She could just disappear into it. I had no idea it was teaching her so much.” Amazed, Heidi said that she and her husband would put blocks out and ask Nora to spell a word and she would do it.

Learning and autism
According to Heidi, most kids with autism are technical visual learners. In short, this means they learn visually. Things have to be very concrete. You can’t just say something and it’s absorbed. Heidi knew early on that Nora was a visual learner. Eye contact and close up interactions can be overwhelming for kids with autism. One on one interactions can be tough. An iPad can actually be more comfortable and they can learn quicker. It’s not as invasive for children with autism.

All of the teachers in our district use the iPad as a means of teaching, but teachers are still very involved with childrens’ learning. An iPad can be a very nice way for kids with autism to learn.

Starting Kindergarten
When Nora started Kindergarten and Heidi learned that the autism classrooms in the district didn’t have iPads, she was shocked. “They were new technology, but it still surprised me that the schools hadn’t jumped on board yet,” she said. But it turned out there simply wasn’t money for iPads in the classrooms.

For Heidi, this was the start of Nora’s Network.

For me, it became ‘I need to raise money and how am I going to do that?

She started off with a lofty goal, but one that she has nearly completed in less than three years: Providing iPads to each classroom serving children with autism in the district.

Launching Nora’s Network
Heidi first jumped in by planning a walk in less than a month and did so by tapping friends and family to participate. Just one small step can be the beginning of something big. The first annual Nora’s Network walk raised $1800. The money paid for an event for children with autism and bought two iPads with all of the software, apps and protective cases a classroom needed. This was just the beginning.

Nora with her parents at the first annual Nora’s Network walk.

In the three plus years since that first walk, Heidi and Nora’s Network have raised more than $9,000 and provided 14 iPads with software, iTunes cards, protective cases and screen protectors and put on many events for children and families affected by Autism in our school district.

Every penny that gets raised will always go straight back to the kids. -Heidi, Nora’s Network

This amazing accomplishment started as a mom wanting to simply help her child and children in our school district. Heidi is making things happen!

For Heidi, all of this work is about Nora.  “She’s probably one of the happiest children in the entire world 90 percent of the time,” Heidi said. “When I have the ability to make a connection with Nora, it is so obvious that I’m going to do anything I have to, to make that connection. Her iPad gives her joy.”

And Heidi’s other work hosting events for children and families with autism has made a difference for Nora too. “Seeing her at the events we’ve done and experiencing family traditions that families with a child with autism don’t always do is what it’s about.”

Whether it’s a quiet, intimate time with Santa at the “Sensitive Santa” event, a trip to Sky Zone for families like their’s or a sensory movie option, Nora’s Network has provided family events that wouldn’t happen otherwise. “Normally we have to take just our other child because Nora can’t handle the crowd or the chaos,” Heidi said. “This is a chance to make family traditions that are not normally available to families because some children with autism can’t handle the mall, for example.”

The Mission for Nora’s Network is simple:

We want to become a “go to” resource for families living with Autism in the school district.

Our biggest priority is to ensure that each Connect/Autism classroom in our school district has access to an iPad for their students. iPad’s have proven to be an amazing communication and learning tool for kids with Autism. Nora’s Network is committed to making sure all CONNECT kids have access to this technology.

We are also committed to hosting events for families living with Autism.

100% of proceeds from Nora’s Network will go directly toward supporting children with Autism in our community

Did you know…

  • Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys
  • Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the United States
  • There is no medical detection or cure for autism

According to Autism Speaks

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

Heidi recommends that you all check out Carly’s Cafe for a look at what it feels like to experience life from the point of view of a person with autism. This is a powerful video.

When I asked Heidi why she does this work she said simply “It feels like I’m contributing.” For Heidi, seeing the children at the events and dropping off a new iPad to a classroom is all the reward she needs.

I am nominating Heidi for a JOLLY TIME Kernels of Kindness grant. This grant would allow Heidi to purchase the final two iPads for the Connect classrooms in our district. She will then move on to other very important work with several huge new goals to help children and families with autism in our community. Please consider nominating Heidi or people in your community who do wonderful work.

Remember, it only takes one simple action to start something huge. Heidi planned a walk on a whim because she saw a need. It turned into something amazing. You can make a difference too.

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 Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by JOLLY TIME Pop Corn. All opinions and stories are my own. 

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