This year I celebrate my 18th birthday. I wrote a short speech for my party guests. “I love parties but the love I feel every day trumps any expectations I could have had for my birthday. I am often reminded of my journey and I am still amazed by my own life. I would be a very different person without my family, friends and teachers.” I hope my journey inspires other families and spreads a new awareness of what autism really means.
I (Brooke) also wrote something last night for James’ party. Like any mother my kid’s birthdays are cause for reflection. I’ve shared before that James’ birthdays used to make me really sad. I am so glad that is no longer the case! Communication has made all the difference. I told our friends and family last night that at 18 so much has changed. Not only can James fully communicate, he is receiving a meaningful and stimulating education, he will graduate high school next year and have a start on an associate’s degree. And the big birthday gift this year is an internship and small summer job. His friend and mentor Lydia arranged an internship at Endependence the non-profit organization where she works. James will get to write for the newsletter and do some shredding. And our favorite neighborhood restaurant Pie-Tanza is giving James the opportunity to work a few hours a week folding pizza boxes and such. We are grateful.
And of course despite these wonderful developments in James’ life we still struggle. Autism doesn’t make anything easy and we all get weary of it. But something else I shared at James’ birthday was a thought by author, Henri Nouwen. He said “when we hold firm the cups of life, fully acknowledging their sorrows and joys we will be able to lift our cup in human solidarity… we can become a community of people encouraging one another to fully drink the cups that have been given to us in the conviction that they will lead to true fulfillment”.