giddy up – a thank you note

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

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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.

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33 thoughts on “giddy up – a thank you note

  1. and Thank You, for your amazing campaign to turn the White House blue, and for your continued advocacy for children and families that you’ve never met, for using this platform to raise us up and not tear us down, and for just being you.

  2. Funny you are thanking everyone…I thank you! Thank you for sharing your stories and your journey and for being the voice so many of us wish we had! Thank you for speaking for me! For my son! Thank you for caring enough to share! You have helped so many…You have helped me! I thank you!

  3. Thank YOU, Warrior Mama, for the fires you have lit under the derrières of so many. AND for the shining light in your heart that you share with the world every day.
    XO

  4. Thank you. For being you. Like I said to Luau on a comment to one of his posts, you guys are amazing, you truly embody the warrior spirit. Keep fighting! The World needs more like you! “There but for the grace of God go I…”

  5. DOAM, this ole leaky eyed mom can’t say thank-you enough for showing me that leading with grace and compassion is always the preferred way of doing things. One love.
    Go C’s.

  6. Lump in my throat .. ( ahem.. yet again!). This truly says it all. Thank you for expressing it all in such thorough, honest, compelling measure. Love you so much…

  7. And thank you, Jess, for inspiring so many to get on their soapboxes and advocate for our children. You are an inspiration and I am absolutely confident in respresenting all of us when I say that so many of us would not even know where to begin to raise our voices, were it not for a mom, her diary, and a fervent mission to get the word out. Thank YOU.

  8. Thank you, Jess, for your passion and fight. For your desire to include everyone at the table no matter the route we may have taken to get there. And thank you for sharing your beautiful family and tremendously generous heart with us. Love you. xo

  9. Jess, you are such an eloquent writer. Thank you for this beautiful piece. It’s powerful to be reminded of all the people that are helping in different ways. I strongly believe that awareness leads to compassion.

  10. …and thank you ma’am for letting us know that we’re not alone in this fight during the times we feel like we are.

  11. Thank You for letting other people in on your life and remember we are all different but we are all equal.

  12. DOAM… I want to be you when I grow up! Seriously! You write from the heart. Your words speak volumes and move people to do things they never knew they could. I know because I am one of those people. I may not be touching people the way you do… but I can proudly say that the people in my community, at my kid’s school… they are aware now. Thank you Jess for stirring the fire in me to get up off my butt and do something. For showing me how to be a fighter instead of a whiner. Thank you Jess for telling your stories which in so many ways are mine. Thank you for your words… your beautiful words that always stir so much emotion. They say people come into your life for either a reason, a season or for life. There is no doubt in mind that someone upstairs lead me to your post a month and a half ago. There was a reason. April may be over but the season for autism will always be here. The message behind everything you write, the feelings, the compassion and encouragement… they will stay with me for life! I look forward to reading your future posts and I thank YOU now in advance for each and every one of them!

  13. Thank you Jess for being our voice so many times this month and for writing your insightful blogs to share your experiences this past week. I am always glad when I find other mothers of girls on the spectrum and I am especially glad to have found your blog. You are amazing!

  14. Once again, you have climbed inside my head and put my feelings to words! Thanks for helping to lead the way for all of us. Thank you!

  15. Thank you, what great thank yous.

    I’d like to add a thankyou.

    Thank you to the teacher in the mandatory dance class that instead of forcing my son to dance or to “just sit there and be quiet”, said “I know, you can be the audience” so that he was a vital part of the class and was able to sit and watch with permission rather than not comply.

    There are so many little things that some people do and others could, perhaps awareness will make the others think of things to do, reducing the scariness of autism. So that it is just something else to program for, rather than something that is too hard.

    But, back to your post, just a beautiful list!
    Thank you,
    Eva

  16. Thank YOU, Jess for always letting someone know they are not alone, that they have one friend who understands…. Thank YOU for being a voice when others are just too tired to speak….. Thank YOU for letting us share a glimpse of your family, so we can celebrate and push on through with you…. Thank YOU for creating this wonderful place to go to share and to laugh and to cry….. Thank YOU for being YOU!!!

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