Autism Awareness – An Interview with Steve Mulvoy

Our guest blogger this week is one of our National Board members, Barbara Orlando, from Massachusetts. She is on the National Philoptochos Autism Assistance Fund Committee and wants to make a difference by spreading awareness of autism and by doing so, alerting all of the support available locally and nationally and the support we must all give to individuals and families who face an autism diagnosis. Barbara recently interviewed one of her parishioners with autism, here is his story, told by Barbara:

Paul Bobotas, Steve Mulvoy, Barbara Orlando, and George Stavros
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Steve Mulvoy, a fellow Parishioner at Saint Gregory the Theologian Greek Orthodox Church in Mansfield, MA. We spoke at length about his condition known as Asperger’s syndrome*.

Steve’s mother noticed certain behaviors when Steve was about four years old that caused her enough concern to bring him to a neurologist for testing. The testing confirmed his diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.

Steve resides in Medfield, MA with his father, Thomas, and his brothers. Steve was very open about his Asperger’s. He told me to please “Ask him anything.” He reflected on his younger years and said that he had a tendency to isolate himself, especially in grade school. Steve credits his late mother for helping him attend the “Learning Prep” School in Newton, Ma. She advocated for him every step of the way. She would not give up on helping Steve attain the proper educational placement. She met with the local superintendent of schools and insisted that Steve be given the opportunity to attend “Learning Prep.”

Steve said that in middle school he began to have a few friends who shared the same background as himself. Steve mentioned that he was an excellent speller in school and won all the spelling bees. In high school he attained all A’s and B’s. Steve said that he would not have done so well had it not been for the small classroom sizes of no more than ten students.

Steve went on to attend Mount Ida College in Newton and received a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in May of 2011. He works part-time assisting a neighbor in their office, keeping things organized and tying up loose ends. Steve also is very active in Church, teaching Sunday school, helping out with both third and fourth grade classes and high school.

He is a wonderful young man and was a pleasure to speak to. Steve is a beautiful example of how Asperger’s syndrome doesn’t hold a person back. People with Asperger’s syndrome experience difficulties in the area of social imagination, communication and interaction.

People with Asperger’s syndrome face varying degrees of difficulty, as individuals, they have different strengths and needs. There is great support available through organizations as well as the local community.

Here are a few resources for individuals and families faced with an autism diagnosis who would like more information or support:

  • The May Institute is a school for Autistic children, founded on Cape Cod in 1955. It now has 165 programs located nationwide. 

  • The American Autism Association's website contains a variety of information, a blog, recent updates on research and links for all ages from young children to adults.

  • The National Autism Association is an excellent resource that also offers a blog, information on wandering and safety, many contacts for information, and a place for parents and loved ones to express their concerns.

- Barbara Orlando

* The diagnosis of Asperger's was eliminated in the 2013 fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)  and replaced by a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder on a severity scale.

Ovarian Cancer - Facts All Women Should Know

"This is an important initiative for us, as a women's organization, to undertake. Simply put, awareness about ovarian cancer will save lives - that is our goal."
-National Philoptochos President Aphrodite Skeadas 

In the September/October issue of the Philanthropy Witness we announced a grant that was awarded to National Philoptochos from the HERA Women's Cancer Foundation towards disseminating bilingual information about the risks and symptoms of ovarian cancer. Philoptochos efforts were to focus on reaching out to women and their families who are unwilling or unable to access mainstream services due to language and/or cultural barriers.

Paulette Geanacopoulous, National Philoptochos' Director of Social Work, who wrote the proposal and the Ovarian Cancer Fact Sheets in Greek and English said, "Unlike other gender-based cancers, there is no one reliable early detection test for ovarian cancer. Consequently, we must know and recognize its symptoms so that we can act quickly and appropriately."

Is it an ovarian cyst or ovarian cancer?

Is it an abdominal condition or ovarian cancer?

Is it constipation or ovarian cancer?

OVARIAN CANCER is a deadly disease that kills more women than all other reproductive cancers combined. Because it is hard to detect - there is no one reliable test to identify it - and as some of its symptoms are similar to other conditions, it is important to recognize it signs so that we can act quickly and appropriately. As a women's organization, it is equally important for us to "get the word out" - to our mothers, aunts, and grandmothers, to our daughters, neighbors, and friends so that they know what to look for. To help you do so, we have prepared an "Ovarian Cancer Fact Sheet" - both in Greek and in English.

We urge you to take one or more of the actions to broadly distribute these Fact Sheets throughout your Chapter, Parish and community-at-large:

  • Ask your priest to include both in your Sunday Bulletin
  • Distribute copies to the organizations in your Church, including the Parish Council, GOYA, Greek and Sunday Schools, parent organizations, senior citizen groups, etc.
  • Post both Fact Sheets in the women's rooms of your Church.
  • Place both Fact Sheets in a public area of your Church. 
  • Ask a local newspaper to publish the Fact Sheets and ask the local "health editor" to write an article on ovarian cancer.
  • Invite a gynecological oncologist from a local hospital or cancer society to one of your general meetings to give a presentation on ovarian cancer.
  • Use your imagination - what else works in your community to get the word out?

The Fight Against Human Trafficking in 2014

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that subjects children, women and men by force, fraud or coercion into commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. It is estimated that there are 27 million people in slavery today, 5.5 million are children. While human trafficking is a worldwide problem, it is necessary to understand that this also means it is prevalent in the United States. Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states. The U.S. Department of Justice states that there are between 100,000 and 150,000 sex workers enslaved in the U.S. The average starting age of a slave is 12, although many are younger.

Human Trafficking is such a pressing issue that the President of the United States established an Advisory Council on Human Trafficking of which Archbishop Demetrios of America is an appointed member. 

The Philoptochos Society donated $20,000 to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF for the direct purpose of ending child trafficking and continue to work hard to increase awareness nationwide. 

What can you do?
  • We encourage you and your fellow Chapter stewards to tune in tomorrow, Friday, January 10 at 1 pm EST to hear a panel discussion, “What does 2014 hold for the fight against human trafficking” featuring UNICEF’s Susan Bissell, The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and panelists from International Justice Mission, Not For Sale, and Somaly Mam Foundation.
          To tune in, click on this link:
  • Post the National Human Trafficking Hotline number, 1-888-373-7888, in your Church and other places you frequent like the post office. Callers can report potential cases, get help, or request information and training and it is 100% confidential. 
  • Host a panel discussion of your own. Speakers can include local experts, a professor knowledgeable on the subject of human trafficking, a member of law enforcement, or a survivor of trafficking.

Let’s all work together to raise awareness until there are zero children, women and men who are the victims of human trafficking.

-Vivian Siempos

What will your Chapter do in the New Year?

The Saint Sophia Cathedral Philoptochos Chapter in Los Angeles has been very busy as they begin their year with a philanthropic project that aids women and children affected by domestic violence. 

For the last two years the Philoptochos Chapter adopted the Domestic Violence Agency as one of the organizations they would help on an ongoing basis. This winter they collected brand new blankets for the Agency’s safe houses where women and children take shelter from abusive husbands, boyfriends and fathers.  The Philoptochos women either hand-made blankets or received donations of new blankets to give to the women and children living in the shelter. The staff members at the Domestic Violence Agency were overjoyed when President Virginia Noyes delivered more than 80 new blankets to them.  They invited President Noyes to attend some of their meetings and find out more about how Philoptochos can help further.

“Our work never ends as Philoptochos stewards, we continue to help those who are on hard times, sick or trying to survive on social security,” Chapter President Virginia Noyes said of the Philoptochos mission.

The new year brings with it a euphoria of hope for many, a fresh canvas for which we can paint a new picture. It is a time to reflect on ourselves and our lives and see how we can give more of ourselves to those who need our help the most. Let’s all recommit ourselves to the Philoptochos mission, giving love and hope to those who may have very little of either. What will your picture look like in 2014?

-Vivian Siempos