On April 1st I announced in one of my classes that it was Autism Month which promptly led a student to share that her sorority was holding an event on April 2nd at the clock tower to "light it up blue." We moved onto other announcements and eventually the day's class topic. I didn't think anymore about the event until the student came up to me after class and asked, if Caden and I would be at the event. I immediately defaulted to a few excuses about bedtimes and other reasons that made it impossible for me to commit and then I spent the rest of the day....thinking about the event.
I haven't supported Autism Speaks for a few years and I don't intend to this year either. The more I thought about it though, I realized I really wanted to support my students and the enthusiasm that they had for the event. They are, after all, our future teachers, psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, insurance agents, and so on. I want to support them taking their awareness/acceptance/support of autism into those future careers. So much in the same way I made my decision about Autism Month, I asked Caden if he wanted to go. He thought the idea was interesting and he loved that there would be dancing and sugar.
So we went. It was an amazing evening that I have wanted to blog about since I got home but I've been hesitating because I feel like I am keeping a dirty little secret that I know will upset some of my friends in the autism community. But then I started looking at pictures and I realized something about Thursday night. It wasn't about the color; the clock tower would have looked just as cool in red or purple or orange. It wasn't even about the organization; the entire time I was there the organization wasn't discussed but a lot of other students saw the light, heard the music and they stopped over at the event. They asked questions and we talked.
The light I supported that night looked like this:
[caption id="attachment_367" align="aligncenter" width="300"] UW-La Crosse Students Supporting Autism[/caption]
And it looked like this:
[caption id="attachment_365" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Elf-The Amazing Autism Service Dog[/caption]
When the crowd and the music became too overwhelming, Caden found a spot of his own to celebrate in his own way.
[caption id="attachment_368" align="aligncenter" width="221"] Caden and Mommy Dancing[/caption]
Thanks to his big sister's photography and editing skills, the night even looked like this:
[caption id="attachment_366" align="aligncenter" width="225"] The Clock Tower[/caption]
And when the evening was done, the light I supported looked like this:
[caption id="attachment_369" align="aligncenter" width="285"] Family[/caption]
I'm really glad we were there Thursday night. Students asked thoughtful questions, my daughter posted her picture on Facebook which opened the door to conversations with a few of her friends, and Caden has continued to talk how much fun he had at an "autism dance." I'm considering the night a victory and I hope the lights that burned so bright Thursday night continue to shine for a long long time.