It has been a year since we launched Isaac’s Facebook site. We didn’t know what to expect when we started but we knew why it must come about. Over the years, many many many people have told us again and again and again what Isaac couldn’t do. As significant as his challenges were when he was little, they seemed magnified as he got older. I saw people giving up on Isaac. I saw people discounting my son. He had “reached his potential” before he was a freshman in high school.
Most of these people weren’t cruel, or didn’t mean to be….but there is a cruelty in discounting anyone, isn’t there? I was tempted to listen to the multitude and to discount my son as well. I knew all too well his many challenges. Still, Isaac was my son. I had named him. I had been with him through every struggle. I could not make myself deny that he had purpose. No matter the autism, no matter the behaviors, no matter the cognitive delay, no matter the language impairment, no matter the lack of motor control, Isaac mattered. He could contribute….and he needed me to champion his personhood.
So we began “I Can 4 Isaac”. It was a place on Facebook to share joy, love and encouragement. It was a place where no matter how stinky your own day had been, you could be greeted with a “Good Morning!” and a “Love You Friends”. We had no idea what to expect as far as a following. We started with just a few friends but we have grown to over 1200. That’s not bad for a kid with autism who had been given up on by so many. Isaac has grown to love greeting his friends with a “Big Smile” every day. He sees my phone and seeks to make another video greeting for his site. He lights up. He sees his job. He sees his purpose.
The site has inspired so many. There are people all over the world who celebrate the holiday Isaac made up, First Day, which is to be celebrated on the First Day of every month with some special honor. Isaac gets “Just One” gift on First Day. Some of his friends eat a special meal on First Day or indulge in a celebratory snack or spread some joy to those they see knowing that First Day is a new beginning and an opportunity to start again. First Day is a day to remind yourself that you cannot give up.
Because of Isaac, people have learned the importance of celebrating each new moment as a gift. They delight with him in Pizza Friday and laugh along with the exploits of “Chris the Penguin”, the mascot of Isaac’s site and named by Isaac because of his love of Christmas. Isaac has hosted a virtual ice cream party to thank his friends for remembering that those who are different are also important. Isaac has shown the world just a bit of what he is capable of. He has made blankets and pillows for people who needed to know that they had not been forgotten. Isaac has spent a year spreading encouragement and cheer. Isaac has been a minister of love….one of the highest and noblest duties that a human can hope to undertake.
It is fitting that the anniversary of Isaac’s site should fall so close to a day that calls people around the world to “Spread the Word”. The point of the Spread the Word campaign is to have people pledge to stop the hateful and unthoughtful use of the words “retarded”, “retard”, or other speech that seeks to define humans by a lack of ability instead of respecting them for their value as individuals. The Spread the Word campaign urges another r word to replace the old one….Respect. Respect is a right for people who are differently abled…respect and admiration and awe for every one of us that is different in our own special way.
Isaac is different. He is unique. He is not “autistic”. He is not “retarded”.
My son’s name is Isaac Asher. It means “Happy Laughter”.
Isaac is his own individual. Isaac is important and still has so much to achieve and accomplish. It is well within his grasp.
Isaac is changing the world. Isaac is worthy of respect.