Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Being Thankful on Thanksgiving

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.

Shown to the right is the mat that is right inside my aunt's front door and if you know about me and my Kansas concept you may think something odd is up. Try as she might though there is no mistaken that this is most certainly Kansas (Kansas is a concept I have that states: What if you were paralyzed in every state except Kansas? Where would you want to live? Kansas is the places, interests, activities, or people that we on the spectrum don't feel paralyzed in).

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.


  1. I sent this to a very close friend of mine who just can't seem to figure out why he's so important to me. Keeps saying he didn't really do anything. Maybe he'll understand now.

  2. Hello Aaron ~ I am visiting you from your Aunt's Honeysuckle blog.
    I too think she is a pretty fantastic lady.
    It's clear that you are one special and talented guy yourself.
    You express yourself beautifully.
    Keep writing and doing what you're doing.
    All the best to you and yours
    ~*~ Patty in Virginia

  3. Aaron, I too came from your Aunt Marlynn's blog. She is one special lady in my book, and I'm so glad you feel the same. I was totally impressed by your writing skills and tackling your "disability" head on was the perfect way to do it. I can see you get a lot of your talent from Marlynn's guidance. So glad you were able to be with her this Thanksgiving. She truly needed YOU as much as you needed her this last week.

    Thanks for sharing this with us,
    Elizabeth, who actually lives in Kansas.

  4. You are absolutely right. I understood the theory side of things regarding support first. So, when I was diagnosed, I immediately started to build my support system and I continued to do that. Of course, a lot of time, this is a dual purpose thing... as friendships and professional relationships come first, autism supporter second.

    You may ask why autism takes a backseat. Well, the reason is that I want my OT peers to see me as a colleague first. Plus, I do have some "wild dreams" in terms of my professional goals. So, I need their support when time comes. Hence, friendships and professional relationships are more important.