To bear the weight of, to strengthen, to hold in position so as to keep from falling, sinking, or slipping. To hold up.
April is Autism Awareness Month; a time to shed light and compassion on a mysterious and complex brain development disorder. The world acknowledged autism on April 2nd in a World Autism Awareness Day. That morning, I sent a group text message to my family, asking them to show their support for Autism awareness by wearing blue. Taking into consideration the pervasive "selfie craze," I asked each family member to "snap a selfie" and send it my way. The response was as beautiful and as heartwarming as a Mother's Day Hallmark commercial! With every buzz, buzz of my phone, a most cherished and smiling face greeted me, as if to say, "I support you. I support Camren."
This my dear readers, my dear sisters, my dear friends...this is what support looks like:
Other friends and family members joined in and wore blue, too! James wore blue to work. My dear friend, Stacy, sent me a picture of her blue shirt and her pretty, smiling face. I dressed all my children in blue. It was an amazing and special day.
A publication put together by U of U's Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic stated, "Although autism research is booming and early intervention has been shown to significantly improve language and social skills in many children, support for parents--who face huge challenges in getting their kids diagnosed, finding treatment and caring for them daily--is still lacking." Support is huge. Support is vital.
How can you more fully support a parent who has a child with a spectrum disorder? How can you show support for that child? Obviously the answers are as multifaceted as ASD itself. There are books you can read, there are groups you can join. There are classes you can take, there are websites you can visit. Educating yourself is key; as the well known adage claims--knowledge is power.
But might I offer another idea? Something simple and sincere, yet infinitely profound? It's LOVE.
Love the child with the spectrum disorder. Unconditionally. Practice acceptance. (And patience!) Rather than frequently focusing on "what's wrong," or emphasizing how the child is "different," celebrate their special, unique quirks. Rejoice in the small successes. Appreciate their gifts. Don't ever compare them to other children. They have remarkable spirits beneath the surface of their neurodevelopmental disorders. Truly, they are angels on earth.
Feeling unconditionally loved and accepted will help a child more than anything else. (Remember to love and accept the child's caretakers too!) Making a conscientious choice and a concerted effort to support a family affected by autism is one of the greatest and most glorious things you can do. Strengthen them with your hearts. Hold them up with your hands.
There is power in that!