Autism has been part of our lives since July 2, 2002. On that day, at a hospital in Washington, D.C., our oldest son was diagnosed with autism.
Since that day, we’ve travelled together on a remarkable journey. Our son has gone from someone for whom the basic stuff of childhood – speaking, playing, learning, dressing and just living – were hard. Extraordinarily hard. Fast forward to today and we see our beautiful teen-age son who truly has the world ahead of him. He’s gone from someone afraid of water to someone who jumps in the swimming pool with reckless abandon. He used to fear all dogs; he is now completely devoted to our black Labrador, Lucy. In the past 12 months he ran a 5K race, learned how to ski and mastered writing computer code using two different programming languages. He went from a struggling reader to someone who just finished Jules Verne’s classic “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” And best of all, his infectious sense of humor routinely results in all of us cracking up at dinner time, especially his two younger brothers (who adore him as much as his parents).
And so today, when we hear so many vital messages about autism – about education and policy and research and support – there is one message from our family that we want to send to everyone: Thank you. Thank you to every family member, friend, neighbor, therapist, counselor, teacher, doctor, nurse and even, yes, strangers, who took the time to help us. We are forever indebted to your kindness. We would never have arrived to where we are today without it.
I’m often asked, what does autism need? What can we do to help? There are many possible answers to this. It’s a complex issue that touches on multiple domains: science, public policy, education, awareness. But looking back, if there is one common thread that unites it all – the one thing any person could do to help another person with autism – to me it can be summed up in two words: unconditional love. Because if we start with unconditional love, no matter where our journey takes us, we know that journey won’t be so scary. It will be a journey we travel together and one that will take our son and so many like him to extraordinary heights. And so again, from our family to everyone we say on Autism Awareness Day, THANK YOU for supporting our son and people like him.
Beth T. Sigall
April 2, 2013