Alison Niederauer’s Speech at “Rockin’ and Rollin’ for Hope” Gala
I’d like to thank Danielle, and the Board of Hope Autism for giving me this honor. I means a great deal to me to be here with members of the autism community. This community has embraced my family, and it is a place where I feel very much at home.
I’d also like to thank all of you, for being a kind and supportive audience; because I am a first time honoree, and this is my first speech.
So here goes:
Like Brian, who spoke so eloquently, and lovingly about his son, Christopher, I would like to tell you a little bit about my son. So you will hear about two remarkable young men tonight.
I have a 14 year old son named Liam — I hope for him every day. I hope for him fiercely. I hope for him in the very special way that the mother of a special needs child hopes.
I hope – that he continues to grow up handsome and funny –a truly loyal friend – and maybe, even a wonderful, loving husband some day – like his dad.
I hope – he grows up to be an avid student and learner, like his big sister. Not just an academic student, but a student of the world, who cares deeply, and gives back to the community, like she does.
I hope – that as he grows up along side his little sister (whom Liam “affectionately” calls Pesky – short for Pesky Little Sister) that he maintains a sense of fun, and a love of life, like she does.
I hope for all of this, and so much more. What I know, is that Liam is growing up with autism, and that he’s doing a terrific job.
Liam’s success stems from the first place that truly gave me hope, the Newmark School, in Plainfield, where Liam is currently in 8th grade. In addition to changing Liam’s life completely, Newmark taught me that I am a good enough mother.
They taught me that I can do everything I need to do to ensure that Liam grows up well educated, with appropriate social skills and with the tools he needs to be successful in his life.
The 2 founders and directors of Nemark are here tonight – Cindy Allman and Regina Peter. Cindy and Regina, I thank you from the bottom of my heart – there is not a chance that Liam would be where he is today without you, and without Newmark.
But Liam will not always be at Newmark. He is rapidly becoming a young adult – and this is happening a bit more quickly than I might like. I always swore that I refused to go through puberty with Liam, and yet, here we are!
Hope Autism gives all of us hope for this new challenge that is young adulthood. Hope Autism is one of the few organizations that is focused on what happens when an autistic child becomes an autistic adult.
I am sure that most people outside of our community have no idea what our children face as they grow up.
But those of us in this room know that help comes from people who understand the challenges .
Who have the skills and determination to overcome them – and who never, stop hoping.
So please, all of you, continue to hope, for Liam, for Christopher and for all our children and young adults living with autism.
Hope - that we can help them to grow up strong and confident.
Hope - that they will have friends and a support system to guide them, and love them.
Please, hope – that they will be happy.