Friday, December 21, 2018

The Greatest Present of All…No Gift Wrapping Required - Re-Post

First published quite a few years ago...

The first time we tried to introduce Mikey to Santa, he ran so far in the opposite direction that he came up behind Ol' St. Nick (think about it…you'll get it, heh, heh). Christmas, Hanukah, all of the holiday seasons, are often challenging times for our autistic children (and for us parents, too).

We celebrate Christmas in our home, and have always tried to have a traditional holiday celebration. Of course, all the standard elements are there: the tree, lights, music, Santa, presents, etc. Ah, but when it comes to autism, as we all know well, standard and traditional are not always standard and traditional.

As I mentioned, the whole Santa Claus thing didn't go over well with Mikey (as a matter of fact, he didn't care for the Easter Bunny we saw in the mall either--but he absolutely loves when we see Chuck E. Cheese…I guess giant walking rodents are more his thing). He's become more comfortable over the past couple years and now quickly identifies the jolly, stout man in the red suit as "Santa" (or, lately, the even cuter response when asked who Santa is: "Christmas").

Christmas lights and music are even bigger potential problems for autistic children. But as it was with Santa, repeated exposure in a positive way (desensitizing) has helped Mikey to enjoy these beautiful aspects of the season.

Mikey's choice of music is often restricted to the "Jack's Big Music Show" soundtrack or something similar, so if one of his favorite cartoon characters is singing a Christmas tune he’ll pay extra attention. Being in a classroom environment where music is one of the tools used to teach has also helped Mikey to embrace all kinds of music. Just another reason I firmly believe that things like art and music can be used as a pathway to getting our children to communicate with us and to helping them feel more comfortable in an otherwise confusing environment.

As for the pretty, multi-colored brightness of the yuletide lights, it warmed my wife and my hearts this year to see Mikey smile and stare as we drove past the beautifully decorated houses in our neighborhood. We didn't waste a second in taking him to a drive-thru Christmas lights display, and the excitement that we saw come over him was well worth every penny of the donation fee. Of course, now daddy is feeling the pressure to create a Broadway-show-quality lighting display at our home (I'm afraid Mikey is out of luck on that one…yours truly is not-so-handy with that sort of thing and my sad attempt at Christmas lights equates to a lit snowman with a bad habit of falling over into pieces each night).

The remaining challenge of Christmas that Mikey still doesn't really understand is presents. The first Christmases after we entered the world of autism were a bit heartrending as we would place a wrapped present in front of Mikey on Christmas morning, only to watch him get up and walk away or at best be more interested in the gift's box. But we've persevered every Christmas (and birthdays, too) and Mikey is to the point where he'll rip open his presents' wrapping paper on his own now. We've also taken to bringing him to Toys 'R Us and letting him walk in front of us by himself as we watch what toys he'll walk up to or what keeps his interest. At least this way, if we buy those toys for him, we feel like he sort of gave us a Christmas list.

Helping our autistic children through this time of year takes the same focused steps we use every day: patience, love, and awareness. Those are the gifts we give our children on a daily basis…no holiday needed…no gift wrapping required.

So, when the holiday is over, the guests have gone home, and the house is a mess, embrace what remains…the true meanings of the holiday (peace, love, and family). Hug your child, tell them you love them, and be thankful for the gift you hold in your arms.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Yes, Mikey, There is a Santa Claus

Originally written on Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I've always loved the famous "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" letter because it does give me hope every year when I feel a lack of the Christmas Spirit. With Mikey's first Christmas approaching I began thinking about this letter again and I wanted to write my own version for him. So...

Yes, Mikey, There is a Santa Claus

My Dearest Mikey,

Your daddy has often wondered, long before he became a daddy, what he would tell you about Santa Claus. You see, as your daddy grew up, he had forgotten what Santa Claus was really about and how much he loves children.

As you experience your first Christmas I want to tell you, yes, Mikey, there is a Santa Claus and he loves you, too.

As you get older you'll see Santa Claus in different ways (much as daddy has). But I want you to always remember the spirit of Santa because that is what is so easy to forget when you become a grownup like daddy.

Now Mikey, everyone knows that Santa brings children gifts but that's not what makes Santa so great. The secret of Santa is Love and as I will always try to teach you, Love is the greatest thing in the world.

You'll learn that you can express Love in many different ways and that people will Love you in different ways, too. Mommy and daddy's Love for you is unending, unlimited, and grows stronger every day. Nana and many other people Love you too and as you grow up you'll experience even more people who will Love you and who you'll Love, too.

But the spirit of Santa's Love is different. He Loves all the children. And his Love inspires many people to treat other children and grownups with Love, compassion, and respect. Santa inspires a feeling of generosity, selflessness, and goodwill.

Daddy had put his thoughts of Santa far back in his mind, because as a grownup he thought he didn't need to think about Santa much. But, Mikey, never forget about what Santa means. And never let your children and their children forget. Because the world needs the spirit of Santa's Love. The goodness of Santa makes the world a better place and that's something important all-year round and not just at Christmas.

And so, my sweet child, as you celebrate your first Christmas, I wish you Joy, Peace, and Love, and I wish that you never forget the spirit of Santa because...yes, Mikey, there is a Santa Claus.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

(Un)Real Talk: The Tease of Echolalia

The common songbird, such as the starling, mockingbird, or jay, can mimic human words to such a degree that they’ve frequently been mistaken for an actual person. Some studies say that this mimicry is simply a mistaken effort to imitate species-specific calls. No matter how convincing it may sound, it’s not real talk.

For those of our autistic children who experience echolalia, they too are attempting mimicry for imitation purposes. Echolalia is often found in most developing children, but it is very common in those on the autism spectrum. Echolalia is defined as, “The often pathological repetition of what is said by other people as if echoing them” (Merriam-Webster).

That is a workable definition, but doesn’t mention the frustration and difficulties experienced by the person exhibiting echolalia, or by those attempting to communicate with them. It also doesn’t mention that some children “grow out of” echolalia and develop regular speech, having used echolalia as a learning device.

For my son Mikey, at age eleven, echolalia still dominates his speech. His rare original, inspired words are predominantly requests for juice, snacks, etc. Nine times out of ten, Mikey’s voice is heard reciting dialog from cartoons or children’s videos from YouTube. His talk is memorized words, sounds, and sentences. It is like a tease.

On top of that, his echolalia is constant. He is rarely quiet, which can lead to some embarrassing moments when a loud, “This calls for a Mousketool” is bellowed in Mickey or Goofy’s voice across a library or doctor’s office. There have also been times when his choice of words has made us cringe: Such as when his grandmother said, “I love you” and Mikey responded with, “It doesn’t matter.” Ouch! I touched on the potential dangers of his word choices in my last blog (He’s Just a Boy Who Can’t Say No -

But don’t get me wrong, I love Mikey’s voice. I know we are fortunate that he can speak at all and that has always made me long for the chance to have a conversation with him. A few years back, I even wrote an imaginary Christmas morning dialog with him (“Merry Christmas, Daddy!” An Imagined Conversation with My Son - Alas, that amazing gift has yet to be unwrapped.

The one beautiful thing about Mikey’s echolalia, is that it has always included singing. That’s what inspired me to call him my songbird and what led to the original blog post that my personal blog is named for (My Songbird Sings The Truth - His singing voice is delicate, touching, and powerful. It’s as if he’s trying to break through all the limits that echolalia and autism put on him through whatever song has filled his head that day. I’ve noticed more singing lately…I hope that is an encouraging sign.

There have been other signs of encouragement, recently. Mikey, whether consciously or not, has been using echolalia in an appropriate way, from time to time. When we tell him to say hello to people he has chosen, “Hello, guys” from his cartoon repertoire. Our little songbird is mimicking more of the right sounds. If this all leads to regular, original words, well, I won’t even mind if they are spoken in Spongebob’s tone of voice (hmmm, okay, maybe not Spongebob).

Dan Olawski blogs about his son Mikey and life as an Autism Dad. He lives with his family on Long Island, where he works as a writer/editor/social media marketer. When he's not having tickle fights or playing skee ball with Mikey at Chuck E. Cheese's, he works to spread autism awareness through charity work and his writing. Dan can be contacted at He also has a blog, My Songbird Sings the Truth.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

It's Okay... - Re-Post

Streamers fell from the ceiling and a brass marching band played “Happy Days are Here Again” as the school bus pulled up for the first day of school a couple weeks ago. Well, no, not really, but to say I was happy about the beginning of the school year is quite the understatement.

Mikey didn’t have the best summer break. He regressed a lot and his behavior was challenging at times. I always look forward to the beginning of the new school year, but this year I really couldn’t wait for it to come. Do I feel guilty about saying that? Sure. But it’s okay…
Mikey needed to be back in that structured environment and that’s how I justified my feelings. I did have some pangs of guilt about rooting for school to start back up and for thinking that being around the teachers and other students would be better for Mikey than anything I could do for him at this time. As for having those thoughts, well, it’s okay…
There is a great opportunity for guilt when you are an autism parent. And that stems from the first diagnosis: “Is it my fault?”
Through daily life: “Am I doing enough?” “Did I do the right thing?”
Then there’s that other internal guilt that just wrenches your heart. It’s a guilt that makes you feel like the worst person in the world. But I’m here to tell you, it’s okay…
It’s okay to be happy about back-to-school season…
It’s okay to be happy when your child goes to bed
It’s okay to have those bad days when everything about being the parent of a child with autism gets you down…
It’s okay to want to scream…
It’s okay to cry…
It’s okay…
We all have those feelings at some point. They come upon us sometimes at the worst moments and overwhelm every fiber of our soul. But yes, it is okay to give in to them…with a few stipulations:
  • You must be a truly loving parent who gives your child all the love and attention you have to give.
  • You must have the ability to know when your child will gain from you stepping back to let a teacher, therapist, or coach take over for a bit.
  • And, most importantly, you must be able to realize when an occasional urge to cry or scream has become a problem that consumes you on a daily basis and requires the help of a professional.
So, as I sit here listening over the monitor to Mikey still goofing around three hours after I put him to bed, I can’t help but think to myself, “Go to sleep, buddy. Go to sleep!” And you know what? He will. And I will. And in the morning…it will be okay.
Dan Olawski blogs about fatherhood and his son Mikey. He lives with his family on Long Island, N.Y., where he works as a writer/editor. His time is spent following Mikey with a vacuum cleaner, watching his beloved New York Yankees and continuing his pursuit of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. He can be contacted at

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

He’s Just a Boy Who Can’t Say No

In the classic Broadway musical, Oklahoma!, the character Ado Annie Carnes sings “I’m just a girl who cain’t say no.” Her inability to say the word leads to many a romance and causes her poor father, Judge Carnes, constant stress. While I’m not dealing with wild romances, I am a stressed-out father. Partly because my eleven-year-old autistic son, Mikey, is a boy who can’t say, “no.”

Mikey is only partially verbal and his go-to response to questions has always been, “yes.” Well, it’s actually more like, “yesh.” And while I (and many of his family members and teachers) have often found that cute, it is worrisome. Don’t get me wrong as I exaggerate a bit, Mikey knows the word, “no.” But that is rarely used and is mainly his response when told to go to bed or to the potty. Yesh is his answer to most questions:

“Mikey, do you like steak?”
“Yesh.” - A major lie since he eats approximately four things and none of them include any “real” food.

“Mikey, do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“Yesh.” – Another lie, he’s an only child.

“Mikey, did you clean up your crayons and pencils?”
“Yesh.” – A big whopper of a lie, as I look at about fifty of them strewn across the kitchen table.

And on and on the “yesh” answers come.

I’ve tried to figure out how many of Mikey’s yeshes are lies, how many are canned responses, and how many are because he truly doesn’t know what he’s supposed to say. I mean, is Mikey his generation’s Tommy Flanagan (those of you of a certain age should recognize the name of that great pathological liar created by Jon Lovitz)? I kind of think not (especially since he hasn’t mentioned Morgan Fairchild at all).

In a way, I kind of wish Mikey were lying. At least that would be somewhat easy to correct. But Mikey’s yeshes, whether intentionally misleading or not, worry me because of the potential trouble they could get him into.

It’s bad enough to get the occasional note home from a teacher saying that Mikey said he had a brother and that he was going to eat a cheeseburger at a weekend BBQ. But I really worry about if he ever has to interact with a police officer, fire fighter, or medical personnel. And I really lose sleep over potential interactions with strangers.

I’m always appreciative when I read about local first responders being trained to interact with autistic individuals. And Mikey has been fortunate to have the local fire department visit his school a few times. But, sadly, not every community offers autism training to those types of professionals. And as much as I strive to be with Mikey as much as possible in public and try my best to inspire a different response out of his mouth, I have to accept the fact that there will be times when I’m not there and he needs to be able to respond for himself.

As an autism community we need to keep pushing for proper training in all aspects of our children’s environments. It’s a great step in the right direction to hear that many schools, police, and fire departments are, or will be, requiring autism education training. That progress, combined with our efforts as parents to teach our children to communicate, will ensure not just yeshes, but a myriad of appropriate responses.

I deal with the many yeshes, for now, and dream of a day sometime in the future where my Mikey will borrow a bit from Ado Annie and not be able to say “no,” because he’s met the love of his life. Yesh, that would be truly amazing.

Dan Olawski blogs about his son Mikey and life as an Autism Dad. He lives with his family on Long Island, where he works as a writer/editor/social media marketer. When he's not having tickle fights or playing skee ball with Mikey at Chuck E. Cheese's, he works to spread autism awareness through charity work and his writing. Dan can be contacted at

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Re-Post - PB&J: The Secret to Being a Great Autism Dad

The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) has re-published one of my older blog posts called, "PB&J: The Secret to Being a Great Autism Dad." Please check it out and look for new blog posts in the future on the OAR site and this site.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Somewhere ‘Tween

The three tween boys sat in the row behind me waiting for the movie to start. At that time in December of 2004, my own little boy was still in his mother’s be born on April 6th, 2005.

The boys, all wearing baseball caps and superhero-themed shirts, sipped their sodas and munched on their popcorn. Their conversation about the movie we were about to see (The Incredibles, I believe) and what they wanted for Christmas made me laugh and smile as it reflected the topics they cared about the most and what seemed to be the camaraderie of typical boys of that age.

I listened to their chatter until the movie started, all the while looking forward to the day when my son would be sitting in the movie theater with his friends having a very similar conversation. I figured that’s the way things were and that’s how they’d be for my Mikey. Autism was the farthest thing from my mind that day...heck, I really didn’t even know what autism was.

Today, on this April 6th, 2016, as my now tween Mikey celebrates his 11th birthday, I know far too well what autism is—and that movie theater scenario is a distant fantasy. The difference between those typical tween boys and my autistic tween boy couldn’t be more obvious.

I look at my beautiful, amazing boy and I realize that, although he has just turned eleven, I have no idea what a typical eleven-year-old boy is supposed to do or how they are supposed to act. Mikey also wears a baseball hat and superhero shirt at times, but they are what we buy for him, he has no interest in them, specifically. Toys are an interest, but he doesn’t get influenced by seeing a commercial for a new toy and he still is attracted to toys that are for a much, much younger age range. While we’ve taken him to a few movies, he can barely sit through them (after the popcorn has run out) and has never requested to see one on his own (instead preferring to watch videos of children’s shows he should have outgrown already). And perhaps the thing that stands out the most, he has no friends. Yes, he has his "friends" that he goes to school with, but he has no desire for interaction and no awareness of that kind of relationship.

Where does all of that place him among eleven year olds...somewhere ‘tween typical and non-functional autistic? Mikey has always been very unique, even for a child with autism. A doctor once said he’s an atypical typical child with autism. Mikey’s a smart, artistically talented, happy little boy, but his chronological age doesn’t match his emotional or mental development. Mikey is not less, but he's definitely different.

Mikey’s not fully potty-trained. He also has an extremely limited diet and will freak out if you try to get him to eat something new. When at home, or in his classroom, those issues are addressed to keep him functioning, happy, and healthy. It’s mainly when strangers interact with Mikey as if he’s typical (for the most part, his autism isn’t obvious unless he’s stimming badly or being very loud with his echolalia) where my main concern is. When faced with Mikey’s lack of respect for personal space, loud outbursts, and Cheetos-encrusted clothes, most people don’t know how to react. But in general terms, I don’t care what they think or say as long as Mikey is safe and hasn’t done anything intentionally malicious.

Every parent of an autistic child, although some won’t admit it, wants their child to seem “typical.” (You know us in the autism community, we’re all about semantics. You can use some words, but not others. Even though we all know what we mean when we think or say them.) They dream that their child will have that moment in the movie theater. But autism often won’t let that be the case. And, we’ve all come to accept the differences in our child’s and our lives. We work hard to help them overcome those differences, and when they can’t be overcome, we try to minimize them. But, overall, the most important way to address them is with love, understanding, and patience.

When Mikey’s differences become obvious, I’ve never been one to shy away from explaining that Mikey has autism. Heck, I wish more people would ask me so I could explain autism and spread more awareness. Because, frequently, with awareness comes acceptance. And perhaps with that, Mikey can go from somewhere ‘tween to just another eleven-year-old.

I’ve got the tickets and popcorn waiting, little buddy. What movie shall we see?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Twelve Christmases - An Autism Dad’s Christmas Letter to His Son

Twelve Christmases ago, I hadn’t met you yet. My dearest Mikey, you were still in your Mommy’s belly and wouldn’t pop into our world for a few more months. To say you were more anticipated than any Christmas present ever would be an understatement.

Twelve Christmases ago, I would speak and sing to you as you grew in your mother’s loving womb. I looked forward to the next Christmas when you would be in my arms and I could show you everything this special season brings to life.

As the following year rolled around, you were finally here with us. I was in love the second I had laid eyes on you a few months earlier, and now it was your first real Christmas. I remember watching your eyes and your face as you stared at the Christmas tree and lights. As I still do today, I wondered what you were thinking and if you realized just how much love you inspire.

When the next Christmas came, you had me on the edge of my seat. Your still not perfect walking skills would lead you to the Christmas tree and no ornament (within your reach) was safe. Little did I know that chasing after you to keep you safe would become a huge part of my life. Do you remember me lifting you up to the top of the tree to show you the angel (and to distract you from the easily reached decorations at the bottom of the tree)? I still wonder what thoughts filled your mind about that.

Christmas of 2007 was the first of our newfound life. Your recent autism diagnosis had rocked and saddened our world. Everything was now being seen through an autism filter. Was your interest in the wrapping paper and not-so-much your presents because of your autism or just a child’s prerogative?  

Our attempt the following year to introduce you to Santa Claus, led to me having to chase you as you ran as far and as fast away from the Jolly One as you could. Now, Daddy was never a big fan of Santa (having learned the truth at a very early age), but your mommy and I couldn’t help but feel a little sad about your reaction. You see, we were new to the autism parenting world and every little “different” thing would make us wonder what we could do to help...or if we even could.

As the next few Christmases came and went, and you were getting excellent help at your developmental school, your mommy and I felt more confident and hopeful (not to mention exhausted and stressed). But we realized that you would always have your challenges and that a “typical” Christmas might not be in the cards.

Now, as you know, your daddy is stubborn and always optimistic when it comes to you and your battle with autism. But, the one amazing breakthrough, the best ever Christmas gift I could get, has still eluded me. In our 9th Christmas, daddy wrote “”Merry Christmas, Daddy!’ An Imagined Conversation with My Son.” Yes, a simple conversation with you is all I wanted (and still want). The scenario I imagined in that story is still a fantasy, but someday I know it will happen.

So, now here we are at Christmas 2015...our 12th with you filling our lives with joy. To our excitement, you’ve shown more of an interest in the holiday. You wanted to look at toys (or toyssszzz as you call them) for Santa to bring, Santa himself no longer terrifies you (although you still probably wouldn’t want to sit on his lap), and the Christmas tree and lights still gain your smiles and attraction (but with less of an urge to rip them off the tree).

We’ve just opened this year’s presents and the smile on your face was priceless. It was the kind of sight that gives mommy and daddy a warm feeling in their hearts and a little more confidence that they know how to keep you happy. Daddy is happy with his presents too, but my wish to have a conversation with you was still not among those gifts.

I believe with all my heart, that some day we will have that conversation (and many, many others) that I crave so much. Wishes made at Christmas just have to come true (I mean isn’t that what the twinkle in Santa’s eye is all about). Merry Christmas, Mikey! Daddy loves you.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Boy Grows a Lot in Ten Years…So Does His Father

The mighty, giant Sequoia tree can grow to fifty feet, nearly half its mature height, in ten years. The light from our sun travels an unimaginable 58,656,960,000,000 miles in ten years. A child develops from an unborn, unknown anticipation to a giggling, lovable little boy. And a man can go from thinking he knew what life was all about and had it all figured out, to a mature, devoted father who can think of no other greatness than to be his little boy’s loving, protecting daddy and best friend.

My Mikey is ten years old today. Typing that makes my hands shake. My little boy is ten. It seems like I can’t remember a time when Mikey wasn’t in my life. I don’t even remember what a day was like a decade ago without him. And I can’t imagine a day without seeing him smile.

As much as Mikey has grown in these ten years, he has helped me grow, too. When faced with having a child, many people say they’re scared and don't know if they're ready...I guess I may have felt that way, too. When a child is born you can either learn and adapt to being everything they need, or you can stay immature and clueless and see the horrible impact on your child. I chose to adapt and learn and, because of Mikey's special needs, I had to truly have a trial by fire. Mikey has made me a better man, by far. My gratitude to him is something I can only express in my everyday actions.

Sadly, something else that has grown in the last ten years has been the rate of autism. When Mikey was born the rate was 1 in 166 children. Today it is 1 in 68 and 1 in 44 boys. My past ten years of life with Mikey has also been a life with autism. I think if Mikey were typical my growth may have been slower, as I said, autism has a way of forcing you to get your act together.

As I celebrate Mikey's tenth birthday, I also look forward to the next ten years. What will they hold for Mikey and me and his mother. What will they hold for autism? I can direct Mikey's ten years by being a good daddy. And I can influence autism in my own way by being an advocate. In both ways, I expect--and will settle for nothing less--than positive, life-changing results.

And so I close by wishing my little buddy the bestest, coolest, Chuck E. Cheesiest birthday ever. I love you, Mikey!
-- Daddy

Friday, April 3, 2015

Buttons, ‘Bands & Blogs: 3 B’s for the 3 A’s of Autism (Awareness, Action & Acceptance)

When I was a young, rebellious lad in the ‘80s, I used to wear pin buttons on my denim jacket. There was the obligatory “PEACE” sign, one that said “Carpe Diem,” and one with Opus from the “Bloom County” comic strip, among others. I never wore a button I didn’t believe in, but I never felt a must-wear commitment to them.

Flash forward now some thirty years and you’ll find me wearing buttons again…but this time with a dedicated, unrelenting purpose: Autism awareness, action, and acceptance for my son, Mikey, and the thousands of other children and adults like him on the autism spectrum. The autism-related buttons I wear now are on my shirt, hat, or coat every single day…because autism is a daily factor in our lives and not something that is in focus for merely a month or a worldwide day. If I get one person to notice these buttons and stop to think about autism (or even better, want to get more involved) then I have widened our audience to the cause that much more.

Along with my buttons, I also wear several wristbands on a daily basis. There’s the “I Love Someone with Autism” wristband, the now-faded wristband for Mikey’s soccer/t-ball team for children with autism, the wristband for the local developmental school that Mikey attended and, of course, one for the Autism Society. I consider these wristbands, along with the buttons, to be part of my uniform as an autism advocate…call them my armor in the battle for the three A’s of autism.

Third in my autism trifecta are blogs. I’ve written all sorts of things throughout my life. I’ve been published in various ways and have seen my name in print a number of times. But none of those match up to when my heart takes over the writing and I create something about Mikey or about autism that really touches people. If I can’t move you with my actions, then I will surely try my best to move you with my words. If I could only write one more thing ever, I’d want it to be a blog that informed and inspired a multitude of people to learn about autism, accept our autistic children and adults for who they are, and caused them to help the autistic community in any way they needed.

As I think about it, I suppose I could add a fourth B for benefits. Throughout the year, and particularly in April, my wife and I attend or participate in autism-related dinners, walks, and other events. I’ve had the opportunity to give a keynote speech at a local autism charity’s fundraiser dinner, I’ve fundraised for several autism-awareness walks, and my wife and I attend other related events as often as possible. This is perhaps my favorite way to spread the word about autism because there are often like-minded individuals who are motivated by their love of a family member or friend who is on the spectrum.

My inspiration for these efforts is three-fold: Help Mikey and others like him in all ways possible; create autism awareness, acceptance, and action wherever and whenever possible; and, in the only admittedly selfish motivation, to overcome the helpless feeling that often overcomes me as an autism parent. For those moments that I look at Mikey and feel like I don’t have an answer, well, using the pay-it-forward concept, if my three B’s open the eyes to a curious stranger or assist another autism parent in some way, maybe someday they’ll return the favor and open my eyes to a solution I’m not seeing.

With the ever-increasing rate of autism diagnoses, the number of us touched in some way by autism is growing larger every year. To achieve the three A’s of autism, we need to spread our message in every way we can. My way is the three B’s. Perhaps yours are three D’s (donations, doctors, devotion), two T’s (teaching and therapy), or an F (fundraising). Whatever we call it, however we do it, this alphabet of letters will always spell LOVE.