Today is Light It Up Blue #LIUB= Autism Awareness day. I have to admit it was a day that I was not even aware of until my nephew, Kelly, came into my life. Kelly is as they say...on the Spectrum of Autism. He is autistic, but saying he is...defines him, and he should not be defined as autistic, but by his character of love, joy, enthusiasm, kindness and talent. So now we say he is on the spectrum or under the umbrella of autism. I am not trying to be politically correct or tedious in my language, but my hope is that Kelly's autism will not define who he is in the world. He has so much more to offer.
70 million people worldwide and 3.5 million people in America. 1 in 68 people are on the spectrum. The blue tape over the mouths in these photos is to represent that 1% of our population struggles to communicate and interact in this world.
Where there is a struggle we want a solution, a way to stop the struggle. I believe this is what makes humankind pretty miraculous and brave. In the mean time of figuring out the cause or the solution of autism, humankind has to be even more miraculous and brave. We need to love and support those who are on the spectrum and their family members. Nearly two-thirds of children with autism have been bullied. I was at the playground with Kelly and his sister Finn (she's 2). Kelly was running around playing by himself, and this other little boy was desperately trying to get Kelly's attention. Kelly was in his own world and the little boy started pushing on Kelly to get his attention. Kelly still did not come out of his world to acknowledge the boy. However, Finn was standing close by and saw the little boy push on Kelly and Finn immediately pushed the boy away from Kelly. Now, this boy was not bullying Kelly at all (he actually was very kind and just wanted Kelly to play with him) but he didn't understand Kelly and when we don't understand something we become more insistent either in a negative way or with positive pursuit of knowledge. My hope is that Finn will not have to be standing up for Kelly all of her life because as humankind we have decided to pursue knowledge.
Each year, an estimated 50,000 teens with autism age out of school-based autism services. Nearly half of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job. Most adults on the spectrum of autism (84%) remain living with their parents.
The spectrum of autism is a large spectrum, and autism is not clearly defined or contained in a box. Individuals on the spectrum or off the spectrum should not be put into a box. Often times my sister has heard "Kelly, doesn't look autistic." I hate to say when he was younger and she was still trying to understand all that was going on with Kelly...I was one of the people. "He doesn't act autistic, he is so loving, and hugs, etc." However, my sister, the strong courageous woman who knows her son better than anyone else braved on through all the words that had intentions to offer hope or encouragement. She and her husband have made sure that Kelly has all the education, therapy and love that will make this world an easier place for him to live. Now may we do our part, not just for Kelly, but all of those who do not function easily within the normalities of this world. May we be slow to judge and eager to understand. May we love beyond ourselves.
Thank you to Kelly for blessing our family in ways we couldn't imagine, and for being our continual teacher. Thank you to my sister, Lizard :) for showing me what true strength looks like.
// Thank you to my friends Dayna and Alisun and husband, Joe for being people that are eager to understand and that love beyond yourselves. Thank you for letting me take your photographs and being a part of this project. Also, if you have some spare time and love looking at great style check out the talented Alisun Abbott's styling work here //