It is Thanksgiving in America and I see it as a day to reflect on what each of us should be thankful for. I have been thinking about this for a week and have no doubt what I am most thankful for on this day.
For the 11th year running I am celebrating this day at my aunt's house outside Washington D.C. This tradition is now entrenched and any substitute to this routine would be met with supreme protest. This is more than a routine however as it is more about my aunt than it is about the turkey or the food.
So, why is this place so powerful that it is more than a routine? The answer is complex, but I feel every family that has a person on the spectrum should know because my aunt has helped me in so many ways by just being there. I did say the answer is complex, but perhaps it is not because the simple answer is that she has been there for me.
Back in 2003 when things were going askew in my life I came to her house for two weeks and it was a major stabilizing event. Granted, I didn't know I was on the spectrum at this time, but nonetheless the effects were gigantic.
After the diagnosis she was there when I needed her and beyond that I know that she will be there if I do need her. I can't state the importance of this enough because I am often fearful of the future and to know someone out there cares about me is a shining beacon in a violent storm of fear.
My aunt has done some amazing things for me, but as major as those things have been the most important is that she is there. I state this because I want the world to know just how important it is for a person on the spectrum to have this. I may not be able to vocalize this to her, and I may not be able to show it, but it is a major support in my life.
Autism is a tricky spectrum of issues and the more supports a person has the better. I often hear, when I ask in my presentations, "Do you know somebody, or know somebody that knows somebody that is on the spectrum?" that people say "I have a nephew" or "I have a niece" but often times those people do not know anything about the spectrum.
I never thought anything about those answers until I was riding with my dad to my aunt's house yesterday. For each person that knows nothing and is not active in their relatives life that is one less support that person has. Perhaps it is due to awareness or understanding but those people are missing out of the chance to play a vital role in a person's life. I don't know where I'd be without my aunt but I do know I never would have had the chance to drive a race car and I know I wouldn't have had the supports needed to get me to the level of functionality that I am today and that means I never would have started writing.
She has done many big things for me, but it is in the minor ones that have made the biggest difference. This Thanksgiving I can think of no one else to thank than my aunt and I hope her dedication can, somehow, be a motivation to someone out there to be the aunt, uncle, or other relative like my aunt and be that extra support. A person doesn't have to single-handily change the world for the person on the spectrum, and the person on the spectrum may not be able to vocalize their appreciation, but by simply being there in times of need, well, as I said I don't know where I'd be without my aunt.