April is Autism Awareness Month, but as far as Amy Hart is concerned, it really ought to be called Autism Acceptance Month. “Everyone knows what autism is and many likely have someone in their lives living with autism,” she said. “It’s time for us to work towards taking that awareness and turning it into the acceptance of people with autism.”
For Hart, this has been a very personal journey as her daughter, Sophie has autism.
“I remember my mom coming with me for one of Soph's checkups very early on and the doctor gave us a paper score to look at that expressed concern about her eye-contact and babbling,” she said. “My mom completely lost her mind. She kept saying, ‘I am a nurse, a mother of three, and a grandmother of three. Why didn't I notice Sophie was behind?’”
Hart admits that she was in complete denial. “Sophie was a happy baby. Surely there was an explanation. This wouldn't happen to my daughter," she said incredulously.
However, in time, Hart and her family began to accept that her beautiful, joyful and loving young daughter was also a child living with autism.
Soon, the Hart family jumped into the learning process and did everything they could to make their story the best it could be. Along the way, they enlisted the help of their community.
Today, Sophie is a fifth-grader at Neil Armstrong Middle School. The Hart family is doing what they’ve always done, which is to engage their community in the fight for autism acceptance. In that pursuit, they have recruited friends and family, fellow classmates, and even local Girl Scout Troop 52625 to join their cause. Together, they have raised more than $800 for autism acceptance, plus book donations that they plan to donate to the Neil Armstrong Middle School library, the elementary school libraries and some area public libraries as well.
“It is amazing how supportive this community has been but particularly Sophie’s friends and their families,” said Hart. “They could not possibly have been any more accepting of her as a friend and the kindness they’ve shown her and their commitment to this project has been nothing short of heartwarming.”
“It’s very simple,” said Hart. “Just be kind, spread acceptance and show love. “That is clearly the overriding lesson Soph has taught the rest of us and that is what her friends have always done as well.”