I am a part of an amazing group of writers who are connected to the autism world. Some have kids with autism. Some have autism themselves. Some have autism AND kids with autism. These people have taught me more about my son than I could have ever learned on my own.
Together we work to keep nasty facebook pages and hate speech as far from the public arena as we can. We advocate for our kids in schools, online and in society. We write. We make calls. We visit our legislators. And some days, we just feel like we are spinning our wheels. Yesterday was one of those days. I posted what this person had said to me on my status update. I was told to ignore him. That there are trolls everywhere. This is true. I can’t fight everyone on the internet. I don’t even want to. But these are people that are LOUDLY advocating for people to HARM my child (there was a page titled “Fifty likes and we set an Aspie (high functioning autistic) on fire.”
I was reminded that these people are the minority. That might be true as far as the really hateful people, but even within the autism community there is some backlash against us saying that autism does not equal planned violence.
I get that. My son was violent. He hurt me and his siblings. That kind of violence is COMPLETELY different from the kind of violence we saw in Newtown. Casey would lash out because he was overstimulated, frustrated, couldn’t communicate, and couldn’t calm down. He never MEANT to hurt me. He never PLANNED any of it. It’s just not the same.
Weary from fighting a battle that I was not winning I simply said, “Then what do we do?”
The autism writers and I have talked about this a lot. We didn’t have any answers. I had shared with them the day before the “IDSC For Life” campaign. It’s a beautiful visual message about people with Down syndrome. I thought maybe we could do something like that. A few of my friends posted pictures of their autistic children with a little bio about them. They were beautiful. In my sadness, I remembered the picture of Casey I had taken that filled me with joy. I wrote a little blurb about Casey on it and posted it to my own facebook page.
Within an hour, it was shared over 100 times. I cried as people began to post it to their own pages. Others within the group made their own, and we started passing them around like super amazing baseball cards. Then they got passed around more. Then more people made them and started posting them to my page and to the pages of my friends.
We quickly decided to start a page to collect all of the pictures. We didn’t know what to call it until Tim chimed in. He already had a page. He already had a website. He had named it “Autism Shines.” It was perfect. The page was born late last night and at this point, less than 24 hours in, it has almost 1,500 likes and well over 200 people have posted pictures of their own children. These pictures have been shared THOUSANDS of times now, and the internet is slowly being flooded with the message we’ve all been so desperate to share: Autism SHINES. That people with autism are smart, wonderful, gentle, and loving people who deserve to be loved in return.
Please visit the page. Please share the page. We want the world to see that autism does not cause the horrors of last week. It can be challenging, but it is also amazing. We are all grateful for the way autism has changed our lives.
If you want to add your picture, too, we’d LOVE to have it. Come, be a part of our autism miracle.