Home > In Their Own Words > In Their Own Words – Hanging My Hat on Hope

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.

If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

  1. brooklyn night nurse
    April 6, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Your story moved me. I thank you for writing such a passionate and honest blog.
    I will pray for you and your family.

  2. lynne elmore
    April 15, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    i wish i could find am autim walk in my area or i could figure out to put one together;having a son with what the docters call functional autism is something i didn’t really think i would be doing because i never thought i would be raising a child with disabilities let alone a child with multiple disabilities; i really didn’t know much about autism untill my son turned 10 & i asked the dr. why he still behaved a certain way even though mentally he was & is 3 years behind his age group i still thought there was something wrong with him so i asked the dr. what was wrong & he told me my son had functional autism i really love him & i would like to find away to support the research for autism.

  1. March 1, 2012 at 9:48 pm

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