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Give thanks for autism

The holiday season is a time for reflection and a time to express gratitude for all the blessings we have in our lives.

Eliza and Ethan Walmark

Two weeks ago, my Facebook post read, “When it comes right down to it, I really only talk about three things. Those three things include (in no particular order): 1) Me 2) Autism 3) Sex.” Sometimes — 99 percent of the time — I am the incarnation of the old joke, “But-enough-about-me-let’s-talk-about-you… what-do-YOU-think-of-me?” personified.

Last week, as I stood in my kitchen, getting as intimate with a turkey as my OB/GYN gets with me, I reflected on my life this past year, and took the opportunity to count my blessings, of which there are many.

After considerable thought and self-reflection — and the fact that I was elbows-deep in necrotic fowl — I concluded that my Facebook post was wrong. My life doesn’t revolve around me, autism and sex 99 percent of the time, it revolves around me, autism and sex a full 100 percent of the time.

Giving thanks

With that in mind, here is a partial list of blessings and things to be grateful for, not just at Thanksgiving, but also throughout the year. I am thankful for:

  • My incredible husband, and our two magnificent and perfect children, Ethan and Eliza
  • My parents (ages 82 and 89) who live in our home, and get to enjoy their children and grandchildren
  • My niece Dana and friend Dawn, who can, at any given moment, be counted on to be a surrogate mother, chauffeur, short order cook and bedtime storyteller to my children
  • Any type of stretch fabric — spandex/Lycra/Spanx — that allows me to fit “10 pounds of sausage into a five pound casing”
  • Every single one of Ethan and Eliza’s educators and teachers, who celebrate and love my children for who they are, and what they will be
  • Those who choose to go into professions like speech pathology, occupational therapy, music therapy, craniosacral therapy and physical therapy — especially those who work with Ethan
  • Eliza’s friends — mostly ages 5, 6 and 7 — who say they want to “help her brother’s brain get better” (and I’m thankful for their parents, who have taught them to help others)
  • My friends — from every chapter of my life — all of whom make my life exponentially better and more interesting through their understanding, patience and love
  • Prozac (and, for good measure, Botox)
  • Any music program for children — neurotypical or not. Music has been shown to release Dopamine, an essential signaling molecule in the brain. This includes my son’s School of RockMusic for Autism, and Connecticut Music Therapy
  • Fairfield Theatre Company, an incredible venue for live music, and which will host many future autism fundraisers (although they don’t know that yet)
  • My son’s school classmates and School of Rock peers, who treat him as their equal, and celebrate his accomplishments
  • Matt Bomer — just because
  • Social media, which is a wonderful forum to help educate people about autism
  • Bob and Suzanne Wright, Autism Speaks; and Dr. Cecelia McCarton, The McCarton Foundation, and their respective staff members, who have dedicated their lives to the autism cause
  • Ethan’s Friendship Circle volunteers, Emma and Rachel, two local high school students who forgo their own activities once a week, to spend time with him, and Amber, who spends time with Eliza so she knows that as a “typical” sibling, she is just as important
  • Padded bras, which give “my girls” a little extra help now and again
  • People who try to learn about autism, and volunteer to help raise money for the cause, whether they have a child with special needs or not
  • Four friends — including my cousin Josh — diagnosed with different forms of cancer in the past year… and all four of them are now in remission
  • JPMorgan Chase, as of Jan. 1, 2014, because they will offer insurance coverage for intensive behavior therapy (ABA) to their employees and their families (My husband helped champion this program, and I couldn’t be more proud.)
  • Howard Stern, Artie Lange and Stephen Colbert — genius entertainers all — whose sharp insight and wit remind me that life isn’t just about me, autism and sex (for a few hours a day, anyway)

Last but certainly not least, I am thankful for — especially my editor — who allows me to express my thoughts about autism in my own unique “voice” without censor (most of the time). To not thank them would make me the biggest turkey of all.

Image credit: Allison Ziering Walmark

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