At the age of 4, Giada said the word "open and her whole family celebrated. Phone calls were made to other family members hoping to hear her say the word to them as well. That's because after months of her family, including her 6-year old brother, opening all the doors in their home, the oven door, fridge, and even the little red doors to her toy farm house to try and teach her different words did she finally speak a real word for the first time.
Giada was diagnosed with severe autism when she was 3 1/2 and it appeared that her fate was sealed. The doctors believed she would never be able to properly communicate and would need special care for the rest of her life. Thankfully, through hard work and early intervention she was able to excel to a level of executive functioning that allows her to think freely and live her life with independence.
“I don't remember every situation that happened when I was little but I do remember the way I felt about the world around me. I had no awareness that I was different from other people but I noticed that other people were treated better than me. When people looked at me, most of them saw me like I was less than, and would keep their distance. I didn't know why they did this, but I knew that when they were told that I was autistic it seemed to trigger this reaction. I remember thinking that if someone I met didn't like me, I wish they wouldn't like me based on my personality or something that I had done instead of not liking me when they saw me through the eyes of autism.”
Today Giada operates Special Needs Emergency Preparedness alongside Joshua and a small team of people. Giada uses her own life experiences and unique skill sets. She uses her perspective of knowing what it's like to grow up with autism to help create emergency preparedness plans and adapt existing ones to suit the special needs population.
“I felt inside and out that I was normal just like everyone else. I am after all a human being. I worked incredibly hard to be seen as an equal. Autism may have strongly influenced my life, particularly my earlier years, but it was people's perceptions that tried to limit me. No matter what people said, they were never going to dictate who I am.”
Joshua's father lived through a prisoner of war camp in Burma, called River Kwai in World War 2. They made a movie about it. He oversaw Dutch troops and survived almost 4 years until the end of the war. Joshua grew up with a father that had (PTSD) Post traumatic Stress Disorder before it was ever a term. Having both parent who went through the war, being prepared was always a concern for them, as they had seen it all. Joshua's fathers aim was always to be prepared in the event of any kind of disaster and his mother canned, and stored food and water every year making sure the family had enough.
In hindsight this did not always inspire a healthy childhood development, but something healthy came from it. From a very young age Joshua understood he needed to appease his parents requests and took on the idea of being able to be competent as a woodsman, a hunter, and to be prepared in the event of any kind of disaster. Joshua applied his parent's training and practices in a practical way throughout his life.
Coming full swing to the present, Joshua has taught and participated in many preparedness style courses for the outdoors and stay at home survival measures. From a wide variety of training to Local emergency preparedness and indigenous wilderness camps and events, Joshua takes his experience to help SNEP with a task to offer training and timely advice for those in the special needs field, as well as family and community interest groups. Joshua was also trained and worked in an adult home for autistic adults. Joshua has also served as a minister for the last 30 years.
Joshua has seen the gap in training and information for emergency preparedness for seniors and those with cognitive disabilities, so along with a small dedicated team of people and cooperating with a network in the emergency preparedness field, Joshua hopes to assist in any way he can with his knowledge in filmmaking to produce footage that people can prepare for their loved ones and for caregivers and their clients appropriately.