From all appearances, it seemed that I'd been solicited. I approached my car in the parking lot after this morning's service at the spiritual center I attend. A white business card with blue print was wedged into the bottom of my driver's side window. As I drew nearer, I could read the company moniker included the word "Foods." Had all the cars in our lot been blanketed by someone advertising a last minute Thanksgiving special? I looked around. My car appeared to be the only one. As I removed the card, I read the black cursive handwriting: "Autism: Please call me!!"
My bumper bears an "Autism Awareness" puzzle design magnet. Two stickers also bear autism messages: in the common white and black oval, "Aut" appears, as in the foreign country of AutismLand, where I live. And, then there's the faded "I love somebody with autism."
Before I left the lot, I dialed the number. It seemed to be a general company mailbox, but I hesitantly left a message with my name and number and also left the number and website address of our local Autism Society of Middle Tennessee. I phoned the society and told them to expect a call and the circumstances. And then I wondered about the person who saw my car's stickers at Center that day. The person who felt the urgency to leave a note with those four words, punctuated with two exclamation points.
Who are you? Are you a desperate Dad searching for answers for a young child? For an older child who might have Asperger's syndrome yet undiagnosed? Do you have an adult sibling and you've heard that Asperger's, a form of high-functioning autism, just might explain their lifetime of struggles?
You are not the first person who has spotted those stickers and left me notes. Peppered me with questions. Here's what I have to say to you, whoever you are. Get help. Reach out. Make our local society your ally. Come hear me in January at the society's bi-monthly Autism Orientation http://tnautism.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=24&Itemid=39. And: igbok.
First, credits go to talented Nashville artist David Arms http://www.davidarms.com/ for the term igbok. It stands for "its going to be okay." So you, dear, whoever you are: igbok. It may not feel like it right now. It may not feel like it for a long time. But you had the gumption, the drive to reach out to me and you will find the help you and your loved one needs. Will it be perfect? Rarely...at least in the world's definition. Will it be frustrating at times? Yep.
If you continue to reach out for help and for answers, you will find people who care for your child and your family. Caring professionals. You will find friends that you never expected to meet. With intervention and armed with proper information, you will see progress. It may seem like baby steps, but then you may also come to realize like I and many others on this challenging journey do, they really aren't so small. They are GIANT.
You may hear that this is a bad thing. Please don't believe it. Your loved one came wrapped in a different package. Sometimes the wrappings are clumsy and can be exasperating in your attempts to open them. But you've still got a gift in this loved one of yours. I hope you will know that. I wish you well in your journey...