In Their Own Words – Hanging My Hat on Hope
The 10th Annual Long Island Walk Now for Autism Speaks Awards Reception took place last week. It was a wonderful evening of celebration, not just because of the money we raised – over $1.4 million – but because of the people that came together to make a difference in the autism community. The night was about Brendan, Eileen, Joseph and all of the kids and adults affected by autism. This is a very special community and I am honored to be a part of it.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of divisiveness in the autism community in general, a lot of dissension, a lot of “my way or the highway” mentality. It is a funky energy that often baffles me. I believe it is rooted in the overwhelming passion that families have for their loved ones affected by autism. They face indescribable challenges, from the seemingly mundane to the enormous. They are desperate for answers. And the majority of society doesn’t get it. Most people don’t have a clue about what living with autism 24/7 is like. Add sleep deprivation to the mix, and there are powder kegs of emotion everywhere.
The flipside to the conflicting opinions, and the thing I hang my hat on, is hope. My hope for the community is rooted in the one thing that unites us, the bedrock and the common foundation for all of us – our loved ones. So we can be on very different sides of the fence – pro–bio–medical or pro–science, pro–vaccine or anti–vaccine, pro–GFCF diet or anti–GFCF diet, genetic or environment – but we are all in the same backyard, encompassed by the same fence.
All parents of children with autism – child or adult – that I have met are most passionate about their children. No matter what side of the fence they reside on, or if they are on the fence at all, or in neutral territory (like Switzerland); they are driven to make the best life possible for their children. They are hopeful.
That shared hope is what will unite this community in the long run, because no matter what your beliefs about what causes autism, we are in it for our children. The autism debate comes down to this – Danny, Tom, Kelly, Tyler, Brendan, Kevin, Jackson, Christian, Kerry, Nicky, Jonathan and countless others. They are individuals with names, faces, lives and families who love them. Call me an optimist – which I am – but I truly believe that under all the debates and arguments and contrasting opinions, the love and passion for our children will rise to the top and bring us together.
I believe that opposing sides will one day meet at the fence and that the first questions they ask each other will not be “What do you believe causes autism?” Or “Why don’t you believe what I believe?” It will be “Who is your child? Whom do you love who is affected by autism? Who are you fighting this battle for?” So that we begin at the beginning, and uncover our commonalities before we begin discussing what divides us.
Someday, we will have the answers we seek, no matter what path was traveled to find them. Some day … I “have a dream” that someday we will be a united community, not always in agreement, because that would be boring, but united in our passion for our children, or anyone we love affected by autism. I have a dream that someday, there won’t be a fence.
This “In Their Own Words” essay is written by Rose Ann Walsh of Northport, N.Y.
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