Many studies have been done with people who are on their deathbed about what they would go back and do differently and what their regrets were. Most did not regret what they had done, but what they wished they had done, but now it was too late. When I read this, I knew that my biggest deathbed regret would be not speaking my mind about autism when I had the chance. I have no answers, but after having lived with a son who is handicapped by autism for 36 years, there is much that I wanted to say.
I would not have had the courage to speak my mind if it were not for the professionals who pulled me off the sidelines and asked me for my opinions. Previously, I mentioned some of the professionals that I came into contact with who were instrumental in getting me to say what was on my mind. They really listened and seemed to want to hear what I had to say. I even had teachers who asked me to speak for them because they weren’t being listened to, but they said a parent would be listened to.
The teachers at Burger Developmental Learning Program for students with autism gave me their home phone numbers. What a gift that was! So much so, that years later when I started teaching students with learning disabilities, I gave my home phone number to the parents of my students. They never abused the privilege. I greatly appreciated the fact that I could call my son’s teachers with my concerns, so I wanted my parents to feel the same freedom to call me with any concern they had. Just knowing that the teacher cared enough to give their home numbers gave me the comfort and security I needed to not want to bother them after school hours.
These teachers also arranged for me to do a cable television show about autism. The show “My Piece of The Puzzle” gave me an outlet for my concerns and a chance to say what I felt needed to be said about autism. The show was aired in 1987 and 1988 and won two awards. In honor of the professionals who refused to allow me to remain on the sidelines in despair about autism, I wrote this poem. I found that speaking out in a positive way and trying to help increase autism awareness was a stress management technique in itself.
Sittin’ On The Sidelines
Sittin’ on the sidelines, looking at the ball / wishing I had thrown it, but afraid that I would fall.
Sittin’ on the sidelines, watching the parade / wishing I was marching, but I was so afraid.
Sittin’ on the sidelines, watching life go by / wondering if all that I could do / was sit and watch and cry. / Don’t know if I will succeed / but I know I have to try.
Sittin’ on the sidelines, wanting to be heard. / Don’t know if anyone’s listening / but I have to say my words.
I am tired of sittin’ on the sidelines / and I’m gonna make a change. / No more sittin’ on the sidelines / ‘Cause I’m gettin’ in the game / Don’t know if I’ll win or lose / but I’m playing just the same.
Until next time; May the Light of God surround you.