Austism Awareness: Why I'm Wearing Blue For The Boy Who Can't Talk
Today, so many of you will see posts about Autism Awareness Day: how you should wear blue, how one in 68 children are affected with autism, etc.
Everyone nods their heads and grabs a blue t-shirt.
"I support it," everyone says, and then the day and month end, and everyone goes on with their lives until next year.
As with so many cause awareness days and months, we think about it for a moment, and then it slowly fades from our attention again.
It's no one's fault. It's just how it happens.
For me, this is my cause, and I am always paying attention.
To the little boy who can’t talk: I promise you I am paying attention.
It’s World Autism Awareness Day. Did you know that? I guess you probably didn’t. This day might not mean much to you, but to me, it means everything because it’s a day that stands up in honor of you. Yes, you, little boy. Little boy who isn’t so little anymore, but still can’t talk.
This day is for you. This day is for the world to remember that despite all of your struggles, you still have so much to give. You are the best teacher I have ever had. You are inspiring, and you don’t need speech to be that way.
I don’t think you will ever know how much you have shaped my life.
You are Will, my 14-year-old brother with autism. You are already taller than me, how strange is that? I remember when you were born. I was 9 years old when I found out about your arrival, and I was still young enough to know that the possibilities in life, including your life, were endless.
There was nothing you couldn’t turn out to be. A baseball player, an astronaut, an Alaskan fisherman. Kind, funny, smart, stubborn, curious, logical, creative. Autistic.
I thought I’d imagined them all.
Before you were born, mom made your room jungle-themed. Wild beasts roamed the walls, and when you grew, you would tame them. When you came home, we put you in that room, but the animals taught you, instead.
You learned the roar of a big jungle cat, instead of the calm words of a zookeeper.
The leopard was your favorite. You would take your leopard print blanket and pull it over your face, like peekaboo or hide and seek, but you didn’t want the second part of the game. You only wanted to hide, not to be sought or found. We looked for you, anyway.
When we did find you, you’d smile briefly then disappear again. The sight of the leopard print was less scary than looking at us, and, sometimes, you’d put the blanket over our heads, instead, and kiss the jungle print sockets of our eyes.
My room had animals, too -- circus animals, clowns and bright colors. I had the circus, and you had the jungle cats. I became the lion tamer, and you became the lion.
As we’ve grown together, you’ve taught me everything. I am the compassionate human being I am today because of you. It has been a struggle, but it has been a beautiful one.
You see, autism does not know how to fake it. Autism doesn’t pretend. Autism is raw emotion. Autism is expressing exactly how you feel, whenever you happen to feel it. When you’re upset, we know to take cover, but when you’re happy, there’s never been anything more beautiful.
Your happy moments are the truest happiness of any person I’ve ever seen.
Today, we’re supposed to wear blue for you. What does blue stand for, exactly? Blue is the color that has been chosen to represent autism, but why? What else is blue? There are so many things in this world that are blue.
Blue is the sky; there are endless possibilities in the sky -- that's where people learned to fly. Blue is the ocean; we can't even fathom everything the ocean holds. The depths of the ocean are so unexplored, just like your mind.
I guess blue is sadness, too, though, isn't it? Sadness that you haven't been noticed unless you are causing a ruckus. Sadness that we still don't know just how much you know. Sadness that you can't tell us and maybe will never be able to.
Blue is only for sadness if we let it be. Blue is for autism, and blue is for hope. Blue, we've proven, can be the color of love.
Blue is for you.
As hard as I try, I know I’ll never fully understand. You love the sound of sirens, and I’ll never know why. Can you see what you are missing? Your head might be a better place to be, but no one wants to be in the same place forever. Do you know it’s not fair?
Without you, I’d never have learned the value of a smile, or how spaghetti sauce tastes much better when it’s all over your fingers, or that you can become a human bowling ball if you fling yourself as hard as you can across the kitchen table.
You’re a big jungle cat, and I’m a zookeeper wondering what that loud roar is trying to say. Some people hear a lion roar and just hear noise.
Please don’t forget: There are a lot of ways to say I love you. Maybe that’s what the sirens are saying: "It’s okay, I’m coming. I love you."
I promise, jungle cat, you’re not alone. I might not always understand, little boy who can’t talk, but I will always love you.
Wearing blue means embracing the person you are. Sometimes, you are loud, and sometimes, you are angry. Life with you will never be easy, but nothing easy is ever worth it. You have been worth every moment. Wearing blue means announcing to the world, "I love someone with autism."
To everyone else, as you're going about your day, think about what it might be like to be trapped inside your own head. Think about what it would be like if you had so much to say, but you could never say it. Think about what it might be like to live with autism and keep these thoughts in your head.
The next time you see someone when you're out and about who is flapping or yelling or swaying, someone who seems like they might be just a little bit different, here's what I want you to do: smile. Just smile. A smile means acceptance, and acceptance is the first step.
And, today, if you can, sport something blue.
For you, little boy, wearing blue means calling to the world to notice you, to think of you, and to accept you as you navigate this already challenging life. Wearing blue will help you, as well as all of your friends on the spectrum.
To the little boy who can’t talk and all of the others without voices: We still hear you.
Autism speaks. Are you listening?