The post below is by Lisa Smith, the mother of seven children, two with special needs. Her son Tate has autism. Lisa blogs about her experiences and can be found on Facebook at Quirks and Chaos or at quirks-and-chaos.blogspot.com.
It’s time! It’s time, once again, to light it up blue for autism. You will see blue porch lights and even whole buildings shining blue on April 2nd. Why?
Why do we wear blue each year? The color blue is just a color. It cannot ease the symptoms of autism, give a parent respite care, or advocate for a person with autism. It cannot provide a therapy, pay for education, or teach a skill. It cannot do anything, right? Oh. But it can. And it has. All that blue in April and all those puzzle pieces I will see on tee shirts and online, will let me know I am not alone; we are not alone. There are people who really care about us. They show us they care on April 2nd when they wear blue. Some people show us at other times and in other ways as well, but some folks only show us one day a year in the only way they can. They wear blue. They encourage us.
In addition to encouraging us, the color blue and the puzzle piece symbol have done so much more as well. The color blue, and that puzzle piece symbol, are now recognized by many who would otherwise be oblivious to autism and what autism means for our family. How does their awareness help people with autism though? Is awareness really any more helpful than the color blue itself or a picture of a puzzle piece? I believe the awareness of the general public has helped people with autism tremendously in recent years. My son goes to school with a group of young people who know what autism is. And because they have an understanding of autism, they are neither afraid of it, nor resistant to befriending someone with the diagnosis. We have come a long way. First comes awareness and then comes acceptance.
As a young person, I neither knew what autism was, nor cared. The children with special needs were not in classrooms with the general population of students. Had they been, they likely would have been shunned, out of our fear of their differences. My classmates and I would likely not have participated in an organized campaign to wear blue for children who were different than us. Being different was not cool. But the puzzle piece symbol seems to have helped change that mindset. Being different is no longer seen as bad or scary. Being different is just different, and that is okay.
All the autism awareness and the newer mindset are making it a little easier for some of us. We feel less isolated. We receive fewer stares these days when our kids behave differently. We see more compassion and less advice from others during sensory meltdowns. The way our kids communicate, or their lack of communication, needs fewer explanations than it used to. Awareness, education, and the color blue are to thank for the acceptance.
So, if you are one of those saying, “What could the color blue possibly do to help people with autism?” know this: It helps me. It helps my son. It helps my community. Help us light it up blue on April 2nd this year and every year, and let someone know why you are wearing blue. Maybe they would like to join us!