Disability is a rough word. It can make us feel uncomfortable, uneasy. It can make us want to look away, close our ears, pretend, even momentarily, it doesn’t exist. All of these reactions are understandable. I see them almost every day when I’m out in the world with my son, Jack.
Meeting people with disabilities, including autism, can force us to confront some of our deepest fears--the fear that there but for the grace of god go I, the fear that it could happen to someone you love, the fear that we are helpless against the whims of nature.
But like most fears, this is one that if you confront it head on, you can emerge on the other side.
We are not helpless. I am big believer in advocacy and awareness, but I realize that knowledge alone is not enough. Action has a way of shining light into the dark corners of our fears like nothing else.
There are great organizations out there can help us take action and help people with disabilities like autism reach heir potential. Here are three of my favorites.
1. The Special Olympics has a special place in my heart. Their oath of “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” is something we would all do well keep in our lives. Athletes grow pride in their own abilities and athleticism. There are several ways to help out the Special Olympics chapter in your area, from financial support to volunteering your time.
2. Help a child with autism in your area reach his potential. Go to DonorsChoose.org and click on projects. Search by your hometown and the keyword “autism”. Then give.
3. This one is as easy as making a cup of coffee. Aspire Coffeeworks is a Chicago coffee company (but they ship anywhere) that employs people with developmental disabilities. The proceeds from the sale of their coffee go right back into Aspire’s programs for adults and children. You were going to buy coffee anyway, right? And better to buy it from an organization with a heart and soul instead of a giant corporate behemoth, right? Right.