I just had the honor of connecting two people – a liberal arts college professor who is working on creating a comprehensive system of support for ASD kids on her campus and the Dean of Students at a polytechnical institute that already has such a system in place. After hitting ‘Send’ I am overwhelmed with HOPE. The world is changing. We don’t always see it, and God knows we don’t always feel it, but thanks to people like the professor and the dean, doors will be open to our kids that never were before.
The other day I shot a quick e-mail off to a reader in response to a comment that I loved. I wanted to let her know how much I appreciated her words. I didn’t expect to hear back. I sure as heck didn’t expect to hear THIS back:
I read your blog first thing every day and it’s been an inspiration on so many levels. I’ve been working for my boy for a long time. I started reading diary about a year ago, and it’s nudged me to get working for the broader cause.
My guy is two years older than Brooke, so we’re facing down middle school, but I’m a college prof. and I’m looking to the longer term here. I started thinking about the handful of clearly sorta ASD kids on my campus, and wondered about how we could do better for them — and for my Allen and your Brooke, even at an elite school.
Now we have a little working group across Counseling, Res. Life, and faculty support.
We’re looking big, to a full campus awareness movement and set of supports. It’s going to be SO cool.
So, one more way Diary is working on the world.
I was, for the millionth time, blown away by the ways in which people in this community are taking the world into their own two hands, finding partners and together, changing the order of the universe.
I copied an excerpt of the e-mail to my girls. (No, not MY girls – my Mama-friend ‘girls’.) And one of them wrote this:
(and tell her to check out what they do at my brother’s campus … where they have a lot of kinda sorta ASD kiddos who are brilliant … my brother’s the dean of students there and they have created a whole system with res life and counseling)
It took me approximately thirteen seconds to ask my friend to contact her brother (which she did immediately, cause she’s awesome) and to find out if he would be willing to make himself available to the professor (which he was cause awesome is apparently a family thing.)
And so it was that I had the honor of introducing the dean and the professor via e-mail. God, I love the Interwebz. I really think this whole e-mail thing is really gonna catch on, don’t you?
Anyway, at the end of the e-introduction I wrote the following with a lump in my throat.
Thank you BOTH so much for all that you are doing to support these students. You are opening up a world of possibility for kids (like mine!) who might never have been able to participate in the college experience otherwise. Your time and effort toward this end have given this Mama a very powerful gift – HOPE.
I’ll leave you two to take it from here.
All the best,
I assumed that I’d left the conversation behind as we all climbed into the car to head to the farm. In the car on the way there my phone dinged, signaling an incoming e-mail. Despite a sidelong glance from Luau, I couldn’t resist peeking when I saw that the professor had written back to me and the dean.
Her words moved me to my core. I wish I could hang them on every wall in every institution of learning in this country – from early childhood kindercare to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League colleges.
Jess, thank you so much for this introduction, and [Dean], thank you so much for your willingness to share your work and experiences at [your school].
I believe that diversity is an issue of fundamental human rights, and it is also an issue of maximizing human capital. I believe this of neurodiversity as deeply as I believe it of racial and gender diversity. We can’t afford to lose these kids and their talents. I want my university to be right there in honoring human rights and in harnessing that talent.
I stared at her words. They danced on the page – alight with all of the energy, faith and hope of a revolution – of a cultural shift – of an awakening – of the final wave of the civil rights movement.
This is about – was always about – basic human rights and *our* right as a society to have all of these incredible human beings participate to their full potential. Without appropriate support, we will never know what that potential might have been.
After sending the e-mail to both of us, the professor sent me a side note.
I’m going to keep thinking about when I can be advising Brooke on her senior honors thesis …
The only thing I could write back was the truth.
And I am now officially a puddle.
I’ll end this post where it began – with hope. We don’t always see it, and God knows we don’t always feel it, but thanks to people like the professor and the dean, doors will be open to our kids that never were before.
And I for one, am so grateful.
Ed note: Thank you all so much for your love and support on yesterday’s post. I wrote the following last night on Diary’s Facebook page. For me, it says it all.
“And so it is that within the heart of this place I dwell – this magical place where solidarity crowds out solitude and love ushers judgement to the door. This place of warmth and freedom and sacred understanding – where passersby say, ‘me too’ and no one ever has to explain. This place where the good times are sweeter for the sharing and the hard ones more bearable for knowing we are not alone. This place we’ve built, brick by brick – all of us together. Our place. Our community. Our home. I am so grateful for this place.