“Hi. Welcome to our town. I’m glad you’re here.”

Tonight, Munchkin and I joined the “welcome line” at our student union.

This was the second time this week that the Office of International Services hosted informational meetings for our students, faculty, staff, and community who are affected by or concerned about the recent immigration ban. A group of people organized a team of volunteers to come line the halls before and after each info session to pass out snacks and hugs… to show these frightened “kids” that we are glad to have them as part of our university family and that we will stand up with and beside them.

I was SO proud of Munchkin tonight. He held his sign, shook hands, introduced himself, and spoke with confidence. Rather than being intimidated by those who looked or spoke differently, my Aspie was much more worried that he was making sure that he was showing his sign to the “right ones” (meaning the guests rather than the staff and volunteers).

Munchkin has been sad, worried, and maybe even a little angry since November 8th. I keep telling him that what we do now is to use our voices to stand up for people who need it. He seems scared. I won’t lie: I am, too. But I know that, if I want to teach him to be able to take a stand, to care for others just as much as we do ourselves, then he needs to see people (including Mom) who will look fear, hatred, and injustice in the face and say “Love wins.”

So far, we had just talked about the things going on around us. He knew I joined the Women’s March in Indianapolis. We’re talking about the March for Science (Munchkin LOVES science). But this was his first ‘official’ social activism event. I let him decide if he was ready and felt comfortable going, and he did great. I wish I could have captured the smiles on the faces of the students who stopped to talk to him, to thank him for being there tonight.

A while back, I did some sociological research into the failure of the “colorblind ideology” of the post-Civil Rights era… the well-intentioned philosophy that children should be taught to be “colorblind” to race. Unfortunately, more and more studies are beginning to show that this precept has backfired. It is but one reason we are finding our beloved republic in the state it’s in: fostering an undercurrent of racism that many of us believed – until November 9th, 2016 – to be a thing of the past.

But there is hope. Four generations ago, Munchkin’s ancestry included a “Grand Master” of the local Ku Klux Klan. Today, my child approached a dark-skinned young woman in hijab and, while carrying a sign that said “I’m glad you’re here”, confidently introduced himself, and asked if she would like a cookie.

This is how we change the world, folks. We don’t ignore race, color, or creed… we embrace it, and we teach our children to be “woke”.

One in 68

One in 68.

That’s what they tell me. That my son is one in 68.

You see, my Munchkin was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2012, just after he turned 7. I had my “coming out” as an autism mom two years ago on social media. (Read that story here.)

ASD is a part of our life every day now. Some days, you’d never know that the Munchkin isn’t a neurotypical kid. In fact, he’s just about to “graduate” from the social development portion of his ABA therapy program (even though we’re still working on emotional regulation, sensory integration, and other challenges). Some days, I jokingly call him “my little Sheldon” (all you BBT fans should get the reference). And there are some days when his rigid thinking rub me entirely the wrong way and it takes every ounce of my willpower to react to him with patience and understanding, rather than anger and frustration.

But even on the rough days, I couldn’t be more proud of this kid. Over the span of 6 years, he went from being a nonverbal, frustrated toddler to a young boy who is clever, curious, interactive, and who likes to argue with his mom about bedtime and flossing and whether Jaws is really real. In that time, I haven’t just learned about autism. I’ve learned about myself. I’ve become more patient and understanding than I could have imagined (even though I still fail miserably sometimes). I’ve found new depths in my heart. I’ve had to face questions I couldn’t have fathomed dealing with. And even when I hate it, I wouldn’t trade a moment.

So I want to share some of this feeling, these moments, with all of you.

April 2nd, 2015 is World Autism Awareness Day, and for many years now, there has been a global campaign to “Light it up Blue” for Autism Awareness. This campaign is gaining traction, as some of the worlds largest cities and places get involved. This year, companies, athletes, products, and communities the world over will be wearing blue to support Autism Awareness. Even the Great Pyramids in Giza will be lit up in blue!

If the Sydney Opera House, French’s Mustard, the entire Island of Barbados, and even the New York City trash trucks can #LightItUpBlue, then so can we.

Therefore, the Munchkin and I hereby officially invite each and every one of you, regardless of where in the world you are or what you are doing that day, to join us in wearing blue to show your support for the autism spectrum community. Wear your blue shirts, break out your puzzle piece jewelry, stop by Home Depot and pick up your Philips #LIUB light bulb for your front porch. Heck, just print out this handy-dandy #LIUB selfie sign and shoot a few pictures, no matter what color you’re wearing.

Then, if you’re of a mind to share, the Munchkin and I will welcome posts, comments, emails, and submissions via social media of your 2015 Light It Up Blue pictures!

Autism spectrum disorder is not a death sentence. It doesn’t necessarily even need “cured”. It just needs to be understood. My ASD hero, Temple Grandin, says that people on the spectrum are “Different, not less”. Let us all seek to understand. The ASD community has amazing things to offer to the world, if we can only learn to listen.

World Autism Awareness Day 2o15 is less than 7 days away… won’t you @LightItUpBlue?