As the mom of an autistic kiddo and a resident of Lake Travis, I can honestly say that in my experience “awareness” is as simple as having a conversation. If you wear blue today and it sparks a chat about how autism has affected your life or your friend’s life or the lives of your neighbors, then you’re making a difference.
Why wear blue today?
It’s World Autism Awareness Day and the global “Light It Up Blue” initiative will have skyscrapers glowing blue and people wearing blue from coast-to-coast and around the world to promote autism awareness.
Wearing blue does not cure the sadness, confusion, frustration and anxiety that goes along with autism, but it does shine a light on the hope, gratitude and acceptance. Yes, there can be a bright side to autism.
Today conversations about autism are no longer centered around “What is it? How did he get it?” but rather, “What can I do to help?”
Thanks to the support and kindness from the Lake Travis community, instead of sinking into the shadows of autism and getting lost in awkward apologies, we are living. Throughout our journey, seemingly small acts of acceptance have made the biggest impact.
When my son was diagnosed in 2007, conversations were different than they are today. Most people were just starting to learn about autism because it was appearing at an alarming rate. Conversations were fear-based and full of difficult questions. I was a new mom with a freshly diagnosed autistic toddler and a 6-month-old baby. Sadly, I didn’t have many answers.
John Mann, co-founder of Rolly Pollies, was one of the first business owners I met that totally “got it.” Autism? No problem. We get it. Rolly Pollies offered us a safe haven for my son to interact and play with other kiddos while improving his motor skills.
Due to my son’s needs at the time, he was getting private speech and occupational therapy and Rolly Pollies was the perfect place for us to practice what we were learning. Every time we walked through the doors, a wave of calm eased my worried mind. I knew we were going to be okay.
As my son got older, he began taking Kung Fu from Robert Roy at World of Tennis. Robert, a Kung Fu master, researched autism on his own in order to train and teach my son martial arts in a way that is truly inspiring.
Over the summer, we visited The Musicians Woodshed and the owner, Tony Walsh, gave my boys an impromptu drum lesson. They were so excited! My son grinned from ear-to-ear and started hopping around as he tends to do when he’s happy.
Since we were in a new environment that could trigger sensory overload, I glanced at Tony to explain, but before I could say anything he smiled and nodded in a comforting way. In this situation, no conversation was required.
If you combine these examples with all of the other instances of support, you can begin to see how the end result is far-reaching. From parents to business owners to teachers and peers, an ounce of understanding positively impacts not only the life of that autistic child, but also the lives of that child’s family members, friends and neighbors.
Awareness heals wounds before wounds are made. Conversations lead to understanding and sometimes that’s all we need.
When my son is accepted as he is, people stop seeing his autism and they see him. And he’s pretty amazing.
If you’d like to shine a light on autism today with a local Lake Travis business, Pure Barre in Lakeway is hosting “Blue Under the Barre” where everyone is encouraged to wear blue to class in support of autism awareness. Pure Barre will have treats from Sweet Bakery and door prizes from Adorn Boutique. The studio will be collecting donations to Autism Speaks. If you’d like to reserve a spot, please call (512) 574-3348.
Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on April 2, 2015.