Autism: That’s what friends are for

In my youth, Wednesdays and Sundays too-numerous-to-count were spent with family in a Broadway matinee. My father and mother, a professional musician and educator, and legal assistant, respectively, insisted early on that my brothers and I be exposed to what Wikipedia calls a “collaborative form of fine art.”

From an early age, I could “Ease on Down the Road;” knew the secret knock to enter the clandestine “Hernando’s Hideaway;” figured “Everything’s Coming Up Roses;” and instinctively understood that “Tomorrow” is only a day away.

I can’t do it alone

Back then, an impressionable child with natural blonde hair and child-like awe, show tunes merely provided entertainment without deeper meaning. Hindsight being 20/20, I never could have guessed that one song in particular would have particular resonance. Today, a jaded adult with “paid for” blonde highlights and a 7-year-old special needs son, Chicago the Musical’s “I Can’t Do it Alone” is my go-to mantra.

I can’t do it alone. Certainly, my son’s therapists and teachers ensure I’m not alone by their intense focus on his development. But, my friends (and husband and live-in parents) — my support system — ensure I am not alone from an emotional standpoint. Day in and day out, friends envelop me with unconditional love, support and hope; they are the real unsung heroes who make sure autism isn’t faced alone.

A little help from my friends

My friends — from elementary school to summer camp to college to work and current day — donate money (several times a year!) to my autism fundraisers, even when strapped for cash themselves. My friends established their own autism fundraisers to benefit my son, even though they have typical children. My friends send me letters and notes that lift my spirits. My friends literally walk the walk; each year, our Autism Speaks Walk team grows larger and more vocal. My friends educate their children about autism, and bring them over for socialization play dates. My friends forgive my mistakes by saying, tongue in cheek of course, “Oh, don’t worry about XYZ; you have a child with autism.” In other words, my friends give me a little leeway to use autism as an “excuse” for not doing what was expected, even though they know otherwise.

My friends, much like my son, are blessings. Both are priceless gifts, and I am honored, grateful and humbled they share my journey. I can’t face autism alone — in fact, most of us can’t, and shouldn’t have to face autism alone — and with my friends alongside me, I don’t have to. That’s definitely something to sing about.

More about autism

Autism: A sister’s vision
Autism and back to school: Another brick in the wall
I heart autism… sometimes


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