Oct 24, 2023, Mt Pleasant, SC: Moultrie News: The new normal of autism: Advocate preaches inclusion https://www.postandcourier.com/moultrie-news/news/the-new-normal-of-autism-advocate-preaches-inclusion/article_e2872268-714f-11ee-839b-d3d934586fa8.html
A mother’s pursuit of creating a better environment for her autistic son took form on Layla Luna’s fateful 2018 trip to a Los Angeles-area pizza restaurant that saw patrons rebuke her for not keeping her boy, Rio, in check as result of his sensory overload reaction to the large crowd and bright lights of the public venue.
Luna and her two children — all of whom relocated to the Lowcountry in 2001 — were ultimately ordered to leave the establishment. And though the experience was defeating in its immediate aftermath, it served the purpose of lighting a fire within Luna to found an organization, known as Just Bee, focused on forging a new world where individuals with autism and neurodivergent development are treated equally, fairly and compassionately, with recognition of their civil rights.
Luna shared the plight of a growing population of people on the spectrum during her Oct. 18 visit with the Rotary Club of Mount Pleasant.
Rotarians seated inside the Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall were clued in on the rapid rise in individuals diagnosed with autism in the past 20 years to the tune of 600 percent. To wit, one in 36 children are presently diagnosed with autism in the U.S….
The now 15-year-old Rio, according to Luna, was born with those types of characteristics, along with being non-verbal, as the teenager typically conveys his thoughts through his personal iPad….
Through her efforts as the CEO of Just Bee, Luna explained how the organization’s phone app has emerged as the Yelp of autism by allowing businesses to undergo training to better understand the needs of the autistic population….
The married mother of two also referenced that 85 percent of the 5.6 million autistic adults in the U.S. are either unemployed or underemployed.
“One of the scariest things as a parent is wondering where will my son fit in? What is his future?” she observed….
“We’re not here to cure anyone. My son is perfect just the way he is,” she continued. “I really believe the real reason why so many children are being born with autism is because they are here to cure us. We are a circus. Look at our world right now. It is very difficult. When you have an individual on the spectrum, they teach you, they change your eyes forever.”