When It Matters: Unearthing the Soul with Archaeologists for Autism
Tom Penders has over 30 years experience in the field of archaeology and conducts archaeological surveys for local governments, water management districts, and the Army Corps of Engineers all around the U.S. and in Belize. For about 13 years he’s also been a volunteer archaeological consultant, intent on giving back by working with archaeology students and giving them field experience with environmentally endangered lands. And, most importantly, for about 17 years he’s been the father of Becky, his greatest inspiration, who along with being autistic, is also blind and has epilepsy.
Finding things for Becky to participate in and enjoy has always been a challenge, but she’s been enrolled in various activities to help her stay active and to stimulate her senses. One such program is Surfers for Autism—a safe, fun, judgement-free environment where highly-skilled surf instructors carefully guide children within the autism spectrum into the waves. The surfers and their families are treated like rock stars for a day and get to enjoy a range of activities. Tom was struck by the incredible power of the event – both for the children and their families. And this gave him an idea.
Children have always been drawn to dinosaurs and archaeology, so Tom decided to do what he could by starting Archaeologists for Autism – a nonprofit with a mission to unlock the potential of children with developmental disabilities. The organization provides children with autism spectrum disorders, as well as their dedicated families, a chance to experience archaeology in a fun, low stress environment.
At their annual event––which took place this November––participants were allowed to walk the grounds of an actual archaeological site and work in a fossil dig pit, an artifact dig pit, a skeleton mapping pit, and an actual excavation unit. Tom spent 10 years leading a research project on this land, so he knows it well. There were also information booths with fossils and educators, live music, face painting and a whole lot more. And the entire event was FREE FOR ALL.
We reached out to Tom to see what we could do to help with the event, and he requested the following:
- A 3.5 cubic feet wheelbarrow
- A couple Fiberglass Long Handle Transfer Shovels
- A couple D-Handle Transfer Shovels
- Some Hand Gardening Trowels
Children on the Autism spectrum typically need to maintain a diverse sensory diet in order to help regulate their senses and modify how they experience the world around them. This applies to all young children as their brains are developing at a rapid rate and precautions need to be taken to ensure it is being shaped appropriately. Events like these are crucial for these reasons, and let’s be real, they’re insanely fun for anyone participating, regardless of ability and age.
Archaeologists for Autism is an all-volunteer nonprofit 501(C)(3) organization and 100% dependent on donations. It truly takes a village. If you’re interested in being a supporter, all contributions go directly to running the event and to the operating costs.
For more information, check out the following social media outlets and links:
For more information about how Craftsman Tools is helping communities across the country, check out the When It Matters page.