This week welcomed the world's first Muppet with autism (new Sesame Street character Julia), which will likely work wonders for increased awareness of what it means to be on the spectrum. Of course, groundbreaking and adorable fuzzy puppets are all well and good, but they're no substitute for honest glimpses into the real lives of those dealing with autism.
Mandy Farmer knows just how important it is to share those real-life moments — and what a tremendous impact they can make in breaking down the stigma surrounding autism, while also (hopefully) waking up policy makers to the reality of what these kids need. That's why she logged onto Facebook to post a seemingly ordinary and unexciting video of her son zipping up his jacket. The video was shared by Love What Matters and now has over 300,000 total views on Facebook.
"You know how we say autism families don't take things for granted?" Farmer asks in her caption. "This is what we mean."
She goes on to explain that her son, who is on the autism spectrum, struggles with fine motor skills that are "so very far behind" his fellow six-and-a-half-year-olds. He can't write or draw a square, and he also has a hard time feeding and dressing himself.
"People have no idea how hard our kids have to work to be able to accomplish these tasks consistently," Farmer says. "There are so many therapies that can help, but so many do not have access to those therapies. He has been doing this program for about a month and is now zipping independently, but I want you to be mindful of how much effort it still takes. When we give our kids the opportunity they can work hard and reach a higher potential... It is so exciting to see him meet these milestones, even if they're met on a different timeline than that of his peers."
To add to that powerful message, Farmer gets real with an important call to action: "The policy makers, school districts and insurance companies that refuse to invest in these therapies now are keeping these amazing individuals from becoming the most independent version of themselves."
That's right: Despite popular belief, even super-parents like Farmer can't singlehandedly improve quality of life for kids with autism on a large scale. They also need support from healthcare companies, educators, and policy makers in positions of power in order to bring that positive change to fruition.
Because yes, empowering kids with disabilities does start with the caregivers — but it only works if the rest of their community and their government aren't actively working to deprive them of the resources and therapies they need. Are you listening, Betsy?
Watch Farmer's full video below.