On April 27th I had the honor of taking pictures for the Tampa Bay Autism Speaks Walk. Another local photographer asked if anyone would be able to do it, and without a second thought, I volunteered. My thought was, ‘my son is autistic so I should just do this’ It has now been a few weeks and I am still emotional about it.
Before the Tampa Bay Autism Speaks Walk!
A woman and I started talking and I told her my son was three and wasn’t in attendance because it’s a crowd and at three I worry he will take off. Or that the five-year-old would take off and since I was working, my husband and I didn’t want them to interfere with that. But this angel of a woman hugged me and said, “It gets better. It gets so much better.” And that was at 8:05 in the morning and the first time I fought tears. It wouldn’t be the last that day.
Yes, I am a natural crier and I do cry a lot. I sob when it comes to the kids and I admit this freely. (It may be a tad much because even my kids ask if I’m crying when they do even the smallest of things.) Somehow I managed to swallow those tears and soldier on.
Lately, there have been some rufflings in the special needs community about “Light it up Blue” vs “Red instead” and I wish it would stop. We spend so much of our time and resources fighting schools, insurance companies, therapy providers; we don’t need to fight each other also. We have the same common goal: to raise acceptance and awareness so all our kids are included. Plus, red and blue make purple and purple is a great color so maybe we can wear purple?
The opening ceremony starts and I look out at this community of almost 7000 people gathering to walk for acceptance and awareness of people with autism. People, like my son. And I cried. Heck, I’m crying now. Being a special needs parent is lonely. My friends want to make play dates with all our kids and we always decline. “Sorry, we can’t take Tiny Tot to that.” Which is then followed with the question of why we don’t ‘just get a babysitter’ Girlfriend if that was an option.
Tiny Tot can have a meltdown over any small thing and it becomes a violent loud exhausting mess. He only is comfortable with people he knows, so if my mom can’t watch him, we can’t go. But to look out at all these families, I felt like I was home. Without talking to them, I understood them and I know that they understood me. I felt the love they have for their autistic loved one pouring out of them. Standing there, I was humbled, speechless and in tears.
If you ever have a chance to do any of these walks, and you are on the fence about it-just go. You will be glad you did. Next year, we will all be in attendance, wearing matching shirts and walking. (and crying)