I once started a blog post with “You may be an autism parent if”. It was a fun article and well received by my readers. One of my statements was: “You may be an autism parent if you have tee shirts and jewelry with puzzle pieces on them and your car sports an autism awareness bumper sticker”. It’s true that over the years I have acquired several tee shirts that declare myself a part of the autism community. My favorite necklace has a puzzle piece charm and my son’s initial on it. Why do I do it? Why do I like to wear clothing and jewelry that identify me as someone whose life is touched by autism?
When I walk out of my home wearing clothing or carrying a tote embellished with the Autism Speaks’ “light it up blue” slogan, I never know what kind of interactions might be initiated because of it. Likewise, when my keys are swinging from an autism awareness keychain, or I’m wearing a puzzle piece around my neck, I am sometimes stopped and asked about autism.
You should try it and see what kinds of people you meet!
As you stop to get your coffee, a barista might ask you what “light it up blue” means, giving you the opportunity to talk to him or her about autism. We cannot have acceptance without awareness, and your shirt may help you to spread some awareness.
At the grocery store, a clerk may notice your tote and tell you her nephew was recently diagnosed with autism and her family is looking for services. You may be able to give her an idea about where to look or who to contact. All because of a tote bag with a puzzle piece on it.
In the waiting room of a doctors’ office, you could sit down across from the parent of a young child with autism. He comments on your light it up blue sweatshirt and tells you their story. You might compare services and be able to give him the name of the doctor you like best in the area and the therapies you’ve found successful with your child. And you might learn something from him that you’d like to research for future reference yourself. Who knew that sweatshirt you bought would make a difference for you or for anyone else?
You may hand your keys to a mechanic the next time your oil needs changed. He will look down at the keychain and notice the puzzle pieces dangling there. He could ask you if you have a loved one with autism. He may ask if you’ve got a favorite book about autism that you could recommend. All because you spent a few dollars on a keychain and spread some awareness.
You may sit down next to a young mother tomorrow in a public place. She has many questions about her young son who is showing signs of a developmental delay, but she’s been afraid to seek answers. She could notice the puzzle piece charm dangling from your necklace and ask you if you know someone with autism. By sharing your story, the young mother will be encouraged.
There may be ripple effects from using autism awareness merchandise that you never even know about. The next time you walk out the door, wear something that identifies you as a part of the autism community. Let others know that you love someone with autism and you’re willing to talk about it. Don't have a shirt, a tote, or a keyring? Take a look here: Shop Autism Speaks
This is my second in a series of blog posts for the Autism Speaks Store. My first can be found here: "If you give a mom an Autism Speaks gift card"