TAMPA — Amanda Richards, owner of online shop Absolutely Adrian, and her husband Logan, craft toys that serve a very big purpose – honoring their son, Adrian, who was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of three.
“I’ve always been kind of weird and creative,” said Richards.
Her love for all things unique and exciting grew when her family did. Richards said she found her ‘crafty partner for life’ when she met her husband, who is also diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Despite Logan’s degrees in biomedical engineering and nuclear chemistry, he chooses to create.
Amanda and Logan’s hobby turned into a passion when their son was brought into the world. Richards describes her son Adrian as, ‘perfectly different.’
Richards, who previously worked in the restaurant industry as a manager, needed to find a job where she could stay home and tend to Adrian more effectively. That is when they put their craft to good use. The idea for creating the toys featured on Richards’ Etsy shop originated as a way to help her son.
“It started out with making toys and items for children on the autism spectrum and then into other things we love and enjoy doing in our downtime from all of Adrian’s therapy and school needs,” Richards said.
Adrian, now nine years old, is nonverbal.
“No words does not mean he doesn’t have anything to say,” Richards said. “That sweet boy always finds a way to communicate with us. A real gem, he is our greatest treasure.”
One of the ways Adrian communicates is through magnetic letters. He sorts through letters to form different words, even some that Richards does not recall teaching him.
Adrian also works on his communication in occupational therapy. He learns how to type words to cause actions, such as typing, ‘yes mint’ on the computer to show that he would indeed like a mint. Adrian continues to expand his communication skills by learning to use picture exchange and sign some words like ‘more’ and ‘please.’
In a 2016 press release, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that an estimated 1 in 68 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Richards’ and her family have worked hard to adapt their world to the adventure life threw at them.
Absolutely Adrian contains a range of items including jewelry, toy wands and autism sensory stones. Prices on the items range from five to fifty dollars.
One of the items that Richards believes is particularly helpful for Adrian is the sensory stones. They are small stones, in many different shapes such as dinosaurs and cars, that light up through sunlight and stay illuminated for up to ten hours.
“Adrian was scared of the dark and the idea of putting him to bed with a battery operated toy made us incredibly nervous as he is sensory seeking and will eat nonfood items if given the chance,” Richards said. “We create and morph a lot of our ideas together to make these nifty pieces.”
Richards and her husband do their best to allow their passion and love to reflect on everything they craft for their shop. Finding a way to work while also being able to adequately care for Adrian was everything Richards needed in her life.
“Adrian has taught us to slow down in life,” Richards said. “To be appreciative of every small thing and simply have fun and we do all the time.”