1 in 69 in Huntsville City Schools. 1 in 69.
That’s the number of kids who are on the Autism Spectrum right now. Nationally that number is around 1 in every 110, which is significantly higher than the 1 in 150 number we heard when our boy was first diagnosed in 2007.
Today some one thousand people turned out at Milton Frank Stadium in Huntsville to walk for autism in themselves, their family members, their loved ones, their friends, their students, and sometimes even complete strangers. To everyone who came out, I say thank you. Thank you for reaching out towards those who sometimes don’t reach back. Thank you for holding those who sometimes don’t want to be held. Thank you for saying, “We love you” to those who have a difficult time saying it back, but who absolutely show it–if you’re willing to look.
I’m having a difficult time putting my emotions into words tonight. I’m sad and happy, tired and electrified, depressed and elated. The house is quiet from the busy day. The lights are blue in honor of my boy.
But that number is keeping me awake.
One difficult thing about autism is it’s diversity, but that’s also, as I saw today, a great strength. I saw the exhaustion of parents who didn’t sleep the night before because their child was having a meltdown. I also saw community and belonging that carries us through those long, dark nights. And most importantly I saw joy on the faces of the kids playing together on the astroturf.
You’ve never experienced pure happiness until you’ve watched a child who loves to bounce jumping on a moon bounce. You’ve never seen joy until you’ve watched one child blowing bubbles for another to chase, catch and shout, “MORE.” You’ve never felt exultation until you realize that that word is coming out of your son’s mouth as he overcomes those barriers in his brain that keep him from asking for what he wants or needs.
That’s why inclusion is so important.
Not just for the child on the spectrum, but for the child and the adult who aren’t. We need to be reminded of that joy.
We need to be reminded of the miracle of communication.
We need to be reminded that if my boy can cry out for “MORE,” that–when we laugh, love and play together–we can accomplish anything. Anything at all.
Thanks little buddy for reminding me of that every day. You and your big sister–who loves you more than anything–are my best teachers. Your mommy and I love you both.