Friday, May 15, 2009

Candlelight Speech by Dara Berger

Good evening everyone.
The first thing I would like to do is welcome you all to NAA's very first Candle Lighting Ceremony for Autism Awareness Month. My name is Dara Berger and I am your host for this evening's event. Just to tell you a little bit about me, I am a resident of Manhattan, I chair the parent mentoring committee for the National Autism Association NY Metro Chapter which you will hear about from our first speaker. But the most important and meaningful thing you could know about me is that I am the mother of child who has Autism and his name is Dylan.

Our main goal of tonight's event is to raise awareness about the growing problem of Autism. So I would like to share with you a few ways in which Autism effect's my life. For one, I wake up every morning with a broken heart for what my son and family have to go through. He is such a
bright kid, but he cannot speak. No matter how rested I am in the morning, I have to go into my bathroom and give myself a little pep talk to start another day because he needs me to be strong and he needs me to keep fighting for him. Fight for his recovery. Yes, I did say recovery, because we know some children can recover...not all do. But many make great progress everyday.

Autism is such a complicated disorder. I would need at least 20 hours up here to give you a full picture of what my family goes through on a daily basis. Unfortunately many of you hear today do have a clear understanding. For one I cannot bring my son anywhere I want. A simple trip to the grocery store can send me into tears if I happen to witness another parent and child simply having a conversation with one another-something I cannot do with my son. I have gotten pretty good at holding back the tears at least until I get into the hallway of my building. Those are some things you might not have known about Autism.

Luckily for all the very difficult experiences we go through everyday there are some equally beautiful ones. You can easily get swept up into a world with some of the most nurturing and selfless people you will ever meet. I have never met a group of parents more passionate and giving then the parents of children with special needs. It changes your whole being to appreciate the really small things and you put what's really important in perspective. I am not and will never be the same person I was before Autism. Between you and I ...I like this person a lot better anyway...The therapists, doctors, nutritionist and holistic practioners ...they never give up on the hope of recovery and they never give up on our kids. They are and will always be my true heroes.

For along time I was afraid for people to know about my son, unfortunately there is a very big stigma attached to Autism. I am no longer afraid. I stand before you today proud of my battle wounds proud of my families fight for my son Dylan and proud to be a member of this incredibly supportive community of people.

Now I want to let you know that we have a very special program for you tonight. Some parentes will come up hear to share their own experience each of them will be very different, since no child or family is affected in the very same. If there are any council members here that would like to say a few words than we would like to give them a chance to speak to you. And then we will light five candles to honor the different groups of people affected by Autism.

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