Dear President Obama,
On April 2, hundreds of thousands of American families like mine — and millions more around the world — whose lives are touched by autism will celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. This is a rare chance for us to highlight the ways our loved ones with autism enrich our lives every day, and also to remind the world that autism is an enormous public health crisis that requires urgent action on a broad scope. Turning the White House lights blue would highlight this cause and crisis in a way no other simple gesture could.
My request is very personal. Several years ago my grandson Christian was a happy little boy, full of boundless curiosity and love for life. He would often greet me by running into to my arms and yelling “Mor Mor! I love you! Hi!” We would sit and talk and examine his toys together and discuss them… “this is a red truck – what does it do? That’s right. It puts out fires.”
Christian was about two then. He seemed to be developing into a bright and beautiful child. But then one day I asked him to pick out his favorite truck. He looked straight ahead, ignoring me. I asked him again and he walked away. I followed him to the corner of the room where he was standing, fixated on a pattern on the wall. I got down on one knee and I asked him to look at me, and he turned his head. In that moment I knew that something was wrong. Shortly after that day, my conversations with Christian stopped, and his laughing and playing were quickly replaced by slapping and screaming.
In the years since Christian’s autism diagnosis we have learned a lot. We have learned that there is no quick fix. But with determination, patience and a whole lot of love, we can and will make progress.
I know and appreciate that you truly understand the challenges our families are facing. Under your leadership, the federal government is taking some important steps to address the dire need for more resources dedicated to autism awareness, research, treatment and services.
Our grandson, Christian, is one of the beautiful children whose faces will light up as never before if you make this incredibly important gesture. There are thousands of remarkable, talented adults with autism who would line up to help you flip that light switch on April 2.
You can elevate awareness of autism to an entirely new level by lighting the White House blue on April 2. You will be sending a powerful message to the American people, and the entire global community, that autism is a prime public health issue and that your administration is rising to meet this challenge in every way possible.
I join families across the country in asking you to elevate our cause and celebrate our loved ones with autism.
Suzanne Wright, grandmother of a beautiful boy with autism