Like everyone else, I was numb after the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. I went through the motions in the days after, trying to process the horrifying act, grieving for the families who lost their beautiful, innocent children, and trying to figure out how I was going to handle telling my own children.
There was too much pain. Too much sorrow. And then there were accusations and name calling and hate. Hate filled Facebook pages were created, like "Cure Asperger's, Save Children from PsychoKillers". Cruel comments were left in posts that had been written to promote tolerance and to educate. Strangers private messaged my friends about their autistic children. Threatening, scary messages.
I felt paralyzed. I wanted to take a stand, but I knew I couldn't handle such a confrontation on my own. My sister encouraged me to write about it here, to try and get people to listen, and I told her I couldn't. I was barely keeping it together for my own family. Just watching my writer friends bravely advocate and seeing the hate spewing back made me feel sick to my stomach. I couldn't take on the hate myself and instead hid behind these friends, looking for a way to gain the strength to stand up with them.
As if they understood what the rest of our community needed, these friends created a way to return a sense of security to us. When I learned about their idea on Friday evening, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
And after a week of avoiding both my computer and social media, I immediately sat down made this:
I thought I might be the only person for whom Autism Shines was a light in a dark tunnel, but I could not have been more wrong. Less than two days later, there are over 2,000 likes. Photos and stories are being submitted constantly. Faster that the administators can post them. They are being shared all over facebook among strangers. Caring, tolerant strangers.
I keep going back to the page and am overwhelmed each time I do. But instead of being overcome by the grief and fear and hopelessness I've had all week, I'm filled with hope and gratitude.
And I finally feel like I can talk about what's happened, and take a stand to help advocate for my son and for others with autism.
Thank you to the incredible people who came together to create this space for us to start to heal. You have done more for me than I can ever express. xo
If you haven't yet had the chance, or if you could use a lift, please take a moment to visit Autism Shines page on Facebook. It will make your day much brighter, I promise.