For some people it is a month devoted to building awareness, maybe due to their mental illness. For some it is about teaching acceptance. For others it is about rallying for a ‘cure’. For others it is about building support. And for others it is about celebrating autism’s challenges and triumphs. It is a mixed bag of responses in a divided community, with some horribly harmful messages (like using the word “hate”) and beautifully inspiring messages. It is exhausting and inspiring and frustrating and motivating.
On April 1st, I helped spearhead a fundraiser for a local autism organization that provides supports, information, and activities for the local community. It is an organization affiliated with the program J-man goes with, and they are small potatoes: simple events, seminars, and the like. For example, they are holding an upcoming fundraiser to help a family in the program whose autistic child has cancer. That is what they do. They don’t promise a “cure”and aren’t looking to change the world. They help small groups of people with simple things. They hold fun events that are sensory friendly and autism accepting. It is local level advocacy that I can really get behind.
The Ladies from Salon Onyx
|Tera of Tera Photography
These amazing photos are hers!
Highlight It Up Blue for Autism was my brainchild: Get blue hair extensions for the month of April and use your blue hair as an opportunity to talk about autism and what it means for you in your life. To educate people, to generate discussion, and hopefully affect people in some small way. My friend Tera and I organized it online. We got stylists from a local salon (Salon Onyx) to volunteer their time. We made a Facebook page. We networked.
The turnout was amazing. Considering myself and my friend Tera organized it via email and Facebook, we were both stunned at the number of people who showed up to get silly blue hair extensions, make a donation, and meet each other.
Over 160 people stood in line: mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, family, autistics and neurotypicals, professionals, teachers and lay-people. People who want a ‘cure’. People who believe in neurodiversity. People who knew very little about autism. People who live with autism every day of their lives. People who do every therapy known to man. People who don’t. The rainbow of beliefs about autism was represented in those people who stood together in line this one day, who laughed and giggled about getting a silly little blue hair extensions, who had their photo taken, who shared the experience with their friends and family on Facebook. They all shared one thing, though:
They may love someone with autism. They may BE someone with autism, and they love themselves and their friends and family. They want others to understand it; they want to understand it themselves. Some flounder. Some don’t. But they all LOVE.
This month I devote to loving autism. I believe in acceptance, insofar as I believe that my boy has a brilliant brain that experiences the world differently and that is okay. His brain needs to learn about the world differently and that is okay. I believe his path to happiness might be different and that is okay. I believe he is capable and able and disabled and that is okay. That is my message this month. In fact, it is not just okay… it is good.
He is the Amazing J-man.
J-man, I love you.