So your may be asking yourself, "Why is Jared driving everyone crazy with this walk?" I am, I know it. So first off, I'm sorry if I'm driving you crazy, but this is really important to me and I want you to know why.
Last year was our family’s first year in the walk. We were still very new to the world of autism. We weren’t even sure if we wanted to participate. We were still reeling from the diagnosis and weren’t sure if we were ready for something as public as the walk. I only knew a few people who had children with autism. I could feel the quizzical and sometimes disapproving looks from others when my son’s behaviors didn’t match their expectations. I wasn’t sure about exposing him so publicly, but as the walk day neared we decided it was important to join the walk.
Before the walk I felt isolated and alone. But when we arrived at the walk I was astounded by the number of people there. As we joined the walkers I was amazed at the cheers for the teams, the love, acceptance and support I felt for the parents, the siblings and especially the person with autism. I was so moved by the acceptance I struggled to hold back tears...several times. I loved feeling engulfed, enveloped and enwrapped in acceptance. It was validating to me as a parent. People understood the struggles and challenges that Debbie and I have and will faced. It was accepting of Itai, for all of the challenges he will face as a sibling who loves and accepts his brother. And of course, it was accepting of Avi for who he is, whatever he is and who he can be.
My only regret about attending last year's walk is that we didn't do more to include others. I saw huge teams gathering around one child with flags and t-shirts and cheers. How amazing for that child, who probably rarely gets recognized and praised to be surrounded, absolutely surrounded, by love. This is why I'm pestering everyone. I love Autism Speaks. I love the support and education they provide. I love the research they are doing and I want to help them achieve these goals, but my real goal is showing Avi that he is not alone. So thank you for joining us, for surrounding him and us.
The most important part of the walk for me was learning that I was not alone. I was surrounded by people who understood and cared. I wanted every parent who was struggling with autism to feel so much love and compassion. I hope that every year is as magical as the first walk we joined.
On a different topic I'm looking for some suggestions. I've been thinking about little Itai. It's not uncommon for the sibling of a child with special needs to feel left out or forgotten. I've been thinking that since the walk will focus a lot of indirect and direct attention on Avi and Itai may feel lost in the shuffle. I would like to start a tradition of an Itai day. Every year on some set day other than his birthday (I haven't picked one yet) where everything is focused on Itai. What kind of things do you think you would like? How can I make sure Itai knows how much we love and respect him? Let me know what you think, I'd appreciate it!