This is for you. A heartfelt thank you. Although the words to follow come from a place deep in my heart, I feel certain they will never truly convey the gratitude that lies within them.
As you know, like any parent, I have advocated for my son since the minute he was born. However, once we heard The A Word, my advocacy went up a notch...or a thousand. Many have listened as I have gone on and on about autism. They have nodded politely, smiled, and "Liked" my Facebook Posts as I have advocated and shared the highs, the lows, the moments that have wrecked me and the moments that have pushed and inspired me.
But YOU, you have gone beyond listening. You have gone beyond the head nods, the smiles and the "Likes" .
You have gone beyond awareness.
You have stepped outside your comfort zone to enter his. You have stepped up when he has stepped away. You have pushed him forward when he has pulled back. You have opened the door when he closed it. You have connected when he disconnected. You have accepted him, loved him and treated him with respect even though you may not have always got that in return. It has not gone unnoticed by me or by him.
A recently published study found that understanding and accepting autism is a two way street. We spend so much time and energy teaching autistic individuals how to interact socially so they can be accepted, yet very little time is spent teaching neurotypicals how to interact with the autistic community. And the results of the study indicate that people have a very small window of time to make an impression and without a better understanding of how autism impacts a person and their social interactions, that window can close quickly leaving the autistic person lonely, isolated and misunderstood. We parents of autistic children have known this for years. Glad there is now a study to prove what we already knew.
And apparently, what you already knew too. Your continuous encouragment, your kindness, and your acceptance prove that you understand that connecting with my son doesn't all just fall on his shoulders, it falls on yours too. So thank you for your acceptance.... and your shoulders.
You are family, friends, teachers, therapists, hair stylists, doctors, dentists and strangers. Your backgrounds are diverse, but, you have one thing in common is kindness. You also share an ability to look past what you believe is "wrong" and see all that is "right". And there aren't enough words in the English language to convey my gratitude.
So, how does a mother and advocate thank you for going beyond awareness besides a simple thank you note? By continuing to ensure that your example is followed by others. Thank you for showing me that it is possible to go beyond awareness, for showing me that acceptance can and does come after the smile, the head nod and the "Like". Thank you for inspiring me to continue advocating for my son for without you, I would not be me, and more importantly, he would not believe it is ok to be him.
With More Gratitude Than I Can Ever Express,