For people with Autism, the world can be an uncertain place not knowing exactly how to communicate, interact socially and deal with restrictive or repetitive behaviors, as well as being over sensitive or under sensitive to sounds, smells or touch. Without the love and commitment to reach the autistic, many on the autism spectrum can slip through the cracks without realizing a good, productive life in society. Tristen Olive, 15 years old, who is on the Autism spectrum, has a loving and supportive family, including his grandmother, Alexis Pruden, who has been alongside him and helped him find what means the most to him…helping others.
Moving Beyond the Hardships and Finding the Blessings
When Tristen Olive was diagnosed with Autism, his family was only informed on the hardships that were ahead for him and for the family, as they navigated the diagnosis and how to best help Tristen. What medical professionals failed to address was the blessing that Tristen would be for his family and others.
“Tristen has been and continues to be a blessing to our family and his community. As a family, we could’ve just listened to the doctors’ information on the many limitations that were ahead, but we chose to do otherwise. Our decision was to make God the ultimate authority on Tristen’s life, limitations and gifts; we would follow His will and, by doing that, the blessings haven’t stopped,” said Alexis.
Like most children diagnosed with Autism, Tristen was making very little eye contact with people and would even shy away from being around crowds. His family wanted Tristen to be able to interact with others but to do so at his own pace and in his own time.
“Tristen’s pediatrician always told us that he would have a hard time interacting socially, but we knew that if we believed that Tristen was more than just his diagnosis, he could do whatever he wanted to do and even more. Early on, Tristen enjoyed time with his cousins and never had issues being around family members. We took Tristen on outings to do daily errands, and he showed us that he wanted to be around others. Helping Tristen reach out into our community and volunteer for projects like ‘From Jesus with Love,’ a food pantry effort in the area. This not only blessed others, but opened Tristen’s eyes and our eyes to his love for community service,” Alexis commented.
Love Thy Neighbor
A bit closer to home, Tristen showed his love for others by visiting his next-door neighbor, who is battling Stage 4 cancer. Tristen would not only visit her when she felt like it, but would help her around her house, as well. From taking his neighbor flowers and “Just Because” cards, Tristen has been a light in a very uncertain time for his neighbor.
Tristen has also become a Be Strong Student State Representative, with a mission of “bringing awareness to young people using a peer-to-peer approach by strengthening mental, emotional and relational health-building resilience and preventing bullying.” And, Tristen’s skills go beyond his work in the community.
“Tristen competed in The Greatest Baker Contest where he raised more than $500 for pediatric cancer. In November 2021, Tristen joined the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Mentoring Program and was blessed with a mentor to help him flourish. During this mentorship, Tristen was encouraged to start a Vision Board to set goals for himself, and he has accomplished many of those goals, including learning to cook. Because of how far Tristen has come since his initial Autism diagnosis, I nominated him for the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation Joy Awards. This recognition seeks to improve mental health in black communities by building culturally competent resources, programs and education across the country. Having other young children and adults see what Tristen has been able to accomplish can only inspire them and their families to look past any mental health diagnosis and into their future with limitless possibilities,” stated Alexis.