Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for Support

April is Autism __________Month

Okay, I have to start with a disclaimer.  Last year scarred me; there was so much fighting within the Autism community that I choose to do the absolutely worst thing for my son---I chose silence.  I let the fighting and hostility verbally shut me down. I have had a year to think about and reflect upon the choices that I made last year, and I think that I am coming back in a stronger, more mentally committed place.

Here’s the thing, I don’t really care if you fill the blank in with awareness or acceptance. I could honestly argue it either way.  Depending on where you live, what resources you have available to you, or even where you are on the journey will greatly determine if you are in an awareness or acceptance mode.  In the bigger scheme of things, it becomes a chicken and egg question.  Individually, it takes a great deal of acceptance to be comfortable promoting awareness and sharing one’s own experiences and story.  On the other hand, it is only through awareness that anyone moves toward acceptance. I am hopeful that the underlying intention of both awareness and acceptance is that of support.  Support in being who individuals want to be as a person, support for finding resources within one’s own community, support for individuals who want to be compassionate and caring toward an individual with an ASD but don’t know how, support for family members who don’t understand why their loved one keeps wandering, support for siblings who wonder if they will ever have a playmate or a brother/sister who can verbalize their thoughts, and so on.

That same notion of support is what draws some individuals toward larger, national organizations, while other individuals are drawn toward smaller, local organizations.  Support is what leads some individuals to shine a light or display a puzzle piece. I have said this before, but long before I knew what the blue light meant, I associated blue with my son.  I’ve written several blogs, poems, and even a song about his blue eyes; the same blue eyes that stopped making contact with us.  Blue was the color of his favorite Thomas the Train toys when he was younger; the same toys that lined our living room and eventually pointed us in the direction of a diagnosis.  And he has always loved lights, so for me it was natural to light a blue light when given the chance.  Interestingly no one in our neighborhood has ever associated the blue light with a particular agency but I do know that they put out their blue lights to support a certain little blue eyed train loving boy in my household. Financially, I am trying, as with all of my expenditures, to support our local community, but that doesn’t diminish my love for the blue lights either. In our community, the lights make me feel supported and my son loves to find them throughout the month.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to fight over what organizations we individually support, what symbols we use to represent our experiences, or what word choices we pick to describe the month.  I want to share our experiences with autism, recognizing full and well that each and every experience will be as different as the individuals on the spectrum. My goal for the month is to try to take something away from each of those stories that I can in turn offer as support to someone who needs it.  I’m going to write and share our experiences with the same goal in mind.  April is going to be Autism Support Month in our family this year.