Tuesday, February 12, 2013

blue ba da dee...

'I have a blue house, with a blue window.
Blue is the color of all that I wear.
Blue are the streets and all the trees too.'

On the evening of April 2nd, 2010 I turned on my porch light - it lit up a beautiful blue.  As I looked up and down the street, I saw how it stood out - how beautifully it shined amongst all the white lights that dotted my street.  That blue light... that singular, beautiful blue light encompassed all that I felt for my daughter.  My pride in who she is.

My daughter is autistic.  

She was diagnosed with PDD-NOS when she was four years old.  As with most parents, my husband and I realized some of the same connections weren't being made... connections that her younger sister was already making.  After repeated trips to the pediatrician, psychologist and neurologist, Emma's diagnosis was confirmed.  

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

From the time my husband and I received her diagnosis, we have been her biggest advocates - we embrace and cherish her for who she is.  Everyday I fight to ensure she receives the best accommodations, to assist her in being the best she can be, to educate others in understanding and accepting her for who she is.

'Lighting It Up Blue' during the month of April is one of the ways I celebrate my daughter and educate others in my community about autism.  That first year, while my porch light shined, I felt as if our family belonged to some 'secret club'.  As I drove throughout my neighborhood, my heart would beat a bit quicker each time I would catch a glimpse of another 'member'.

The following year, I invited my neighbors to 'Light It Up Blue' (46 houses), asking them to join me in celebration of my daughter - thus creating 'The Blue-evard'!  Imagine seeing 46 homes bathed in blue on the night of April 2nd, 2011.

The 'Blue-evard'

Last year, a former neighbor who happened to move 4 streets over, asked if he could get involved. The response from my neighbors was overwhelming!  With a little planning, and a LOT of footwork, four connecting streets participated in LIUB - over 200 consecutive homes 'Lighting It Up Blue' for Autism!  I had also contacted our Mayor to 'Light Up' our City Hall, and worked with our schools to 'Light It Up Blue' as well. The impact our little community of blue lights made when one drove past was incredible!  Parents from neighboring cities drove their children to see our lights... telling them:  'This is for you!'

The Original 'Blue-evard'

No. 2

No. 3

No. 4

City Hall

I am truly humbled by community.  During the month of April, neighbors from other streets contacted me - wanting to know how they could participate the following year.  This year, I am hoping to have seven connecting streets, with over 350 consecutive houses 'Lighting It Up Blue'.

People have asked in the past, how did so many in my neighborhood participate in 'Light It Up Blue'... did I send out emails... ask through facebook?  It's been old fashioned footwork, knocking on doors and talking to my neighbors.  Talking about Emma, about who she is, her interests, what she likes to do... her hopes for the future.  

On the 'Blue-evard'

I also talk about autism.  

Lately I've been reading about Autism Awareness vs. Autism Acceptance.  There are still so many outside the autism community who have no idea what autism is.  It's important to inform, while not losing identity.  This is the Autism I want my community to know - My daughter is not a diagnosis, she is an individual.  With awareness comes understanding, with understanding comes acceptance.  It all starts with a conversation, one I invite you to have with your friends, your neighbors.  For me, Autism Awareness/Autism Acceptance doesn't start in April - it starts now.  They say 'It takes a village' -I'm creating my village - Emma's village.  Street by street... door by door... family by family.

This is how I celebrate Emma... this is how I 'Light It Up Blue'.

Our Village

'I'm blue, da ba de, da de die

Da ba de, da ba die
Da ba de, da ba die
Da ba de, da ba die
Da ba de, da ba die
Da ba de, da ba die
Da ba de, da ba die

I have a blue house...'

Title Inspiration:
Eiffel 65:  Blue Da Ba Dee