Wouldn’t it just be lovely if after Autism Awareness Month was over we all got one day – just one, single solitary day when we didn’t have to be AWARE of autism? Just one, God. Please. For my friends. For their kids. Just one. Amen.
~ My note to my friends this morning
As we close the door on yet another Autism Awareness Month, I’d like to say thank you. If I had the time or the energy, I’d create links to examples of each and every one of the following. I have neither, so I have to trust that you’ll know who you are.
Thank you to those who pushed to raise awareness this month.
Thank you to those who reminded the world that awareness is not the goal, but instead is simply the means by which we will achieve the goals.
Thank you to those who opened their eyes, their hearts, their wallets, their homes, their businesses, their schools and their places of worship to our families.
Thank you to those who told their stories, their families’ stories and in so doing, who made the word autism real.
Thank you to those who tweeted, who blogged, who spoke in schools, in churches, in state assemblies, on television and on line at the grocery store.
Thank you to those who began conversations about the words we use and their impact on the greater psyche – and in turn on our children.
Thank you to those who supported the siblings, and the siblings who reached out to one another. Who said, simply by their presence, “It’s going to be OK.”
Thank you to those who continued to ask questions and who refused to back down when the answers weren’t good enough.
Thank you to those who didn’t have an ounce of energy left to advocate, doing all they could to help their kid get through one more hour, one more day. It’s OK.
Thank you to those who made the world better simply by living their own truth without shame.
Thank you to those who spent days in airports, jetting from state to state to stand with our brothers and sisters in their fight for their children’s most basic rights.
Thank you to those who worked with our children every day, who believed in their unlimited potential and who never once stopped to question the possibilities.
Thank you to those who took the time to write to us to tell us about our child’s day.
Thank you to the doctors who spoke without condescension but with compassion.
Thank you to the professionals who addressed parents as equals.
Thank you to the teachers and doctors, therapists and researchers who asked questions, who knew that doing so made them look more – never less – competent.
Thank you to the little girl who invited my daughter to her birthday party.
Thank you to the mother who refused, forty-five years ago to institutionalize her autistic son.
Thank you to the teachers who kept an eye out in the hallways, at lunch, on the playground. Who seamlessly made their presence known when it was needed and disappeared into the scenery when it wasn’t. And above all, who knew the difference.
Thank you to the public servants who truly were.
Thank you to those in power who reached out to help.
Thank you to those who disagreed respectfully.
Thank you to those who remembered that we all have the same goals, no matter how different our approaches.
Thank you to those who wrote books and to those who read them.
Thank you to the educators with the courage to be honest.
Thank you to those who lit their homes and businesses blue, and who talked about why.
Thank you to those who vowed to join us, not because they’d yet been affected by autism, but because they knew that until all are free to reach their potential none will ever be.
Thank you to those who protested, who wrote to parenting magazines and television shows and newspapers – who convinced them to use their platforms to speak to EVERYONE and thank you to those who heeded their call.
Thank you to the autistic adults who taught us, inspired us and reminded us again and again that Autism is a vast spectrum, representative of the entire human condition.
Thank you to the terrified mom whose son was just diagnosed who held her head high and said the word out loud for the first time, then wept as she got into the car.
Thank you to the grandparents who said, “Of course we’ll babysit; just tell us what we need to know.”
Thank you to the aunts and uncles who spoke no less proudly of their autistic niece’s and nephew’s accomplishments than of their typical sibling’s.
Thank you to the Special Education Councils and the Parent Advisory Boards.
Thank you to the PTOs that welcomed Inclusion Committees and asked how they could help support them.
Thank you to the moms still trying to create them.
Thank you to the mother at pick up time who said, “Hello” and asked about our kids.
Thank you to the dad who explained to his son why if he ever heard him use the word, “Retard” again, he’d take his sorry ass to the woodshed.
Thank you to the music teacher who wouldn’t give up on the kid who he knew had a gift, no matter how hard it might have been to unlock it.
Thank you to the PE teacher who thought outside the box and created games in which every child could play a role.
Thank you to the classroom teacher who realized that visual aids work for every student in the room.
Thank you to the school janitor who sees – truly sees our kids.
Thank you to the art teacher who couldn’t have cared less about staying in the lines.
Thank you to the fire fighter who asked the kids not to ring the bell for a few minutes so that the little boy covering his ears could come to look at his truck.
Thank you to the police force who brought in training to better understand why our kids so often find themselves in totally avoidable legal trouble and who learned what to and what NOT to do when, God forbid our children go missing.
And thank YOU. Thank you for walking this road alongside my family.
At the end of the autism conference at the White House on Monday, Mike Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement (and father of an autistic son) said something to the effect of the following, “We here at the White House can’t do this without you. We can help, but we can’t DO it. It will be you – block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, school by school who will make this happen.” And while we desperately need their help, at the end of the day, he’s right.
We can wait and listen for the hoofbeats, my friends, but like it or not, we ARE the cavalry.
I thank God for all of the awareness efforts this month. Without them, nothing else would be possible. But they are simply the first steps on the road to real change.
So as we close the door on yet another April, we saddle up again. Because while the spotlight may be gone for a while, the very real challenges remain.
Giddy up, my Diary family. It’s time to ride.