I can wear Royal Blue, change all the light bulbs in my house to blue, wear a blue hairpiece in my hair (which I do) and paint my fingernails and toes blue during the month of April. I have big blue floppy hats, blue clothes, buttons with puzzle pieces, and awareness paraphernalia up the wazoo. I belong to autism awareness organizations. I write articles about children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and most important I’m raising, loving and living with a child on the spectrum every day and know what a privilege it is to be his mother.
But when a celebrity takes their time and name to a cause for whatever their reasons for doing so are, it usually can make a powerful statement in a short amount of time. Much more than a non-celebrity could ever accomplish by doing any of the things I listed every single day. It matters. They know it and so do we.
On Saturday January 23, 2016, I felt a virtual hug from multiple award-winning recording artist, Toni Braxton, and as much as I’m a huge fan of her music and have been since 1992, I could not have cared less about the music in those few moments on Twitter, our mutual blue hearts connected us. We both have sons on the autism spectrum.
We’ve come to know a lot about this talented singer through the media in the past decades. Her music is how we were introduced to her. It has topped the charts throughout her career and it never disappoints. Yet it has been her ability to overcome adversity with such grace and thrive as a loving, kind and patient mother. This is what makes Ms. Braxton such an inspiration.
During the Lifetime premiere of her biopic, Unbreak My Heart, I felt moved by the scenes that dealt with Ms. Braxton’s youngest son’s autism diagnosis. Since I have witnessed the difference that early intervention can make, I’m a firm believer in Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy (ABA), when handled by trained knowledgeable and experienced professionals, such as some of the providers we’ve been fortunate to have. Autism Specialists have made a world of difference in our lives. I was happy to see what looked like versions of a similar therapy on the screen. I took to social media to express my feelings and was overjoyed when the beautiful star retweeted me. It’s easy to forget that celebrities are people too because we often build them up to be larger than life. But never would I have imagined a retweet and on the night her movie premiered. I was flattered by not for the reasons a retweet normally makes me all warm and fuzzy.
You see what Ms. Braxton did was received by me as a big thumbs up. An, “it’s going to be okay” or maybe even an “I see you.” It’s possible I could be reaching but why not? How many times in my life will this happen? I mean to her it was just a simple click. We’ve never met. We are not friends, unfortunately. But we share an experience. Therefore, the retweet to me felt like a virtual hug, if only for a second, and maybe it felt this way to other moms in the autism community. The purpose of my original message in 140 characters or less by way of my 900 followers on Twitter was to remind people that autism is real and not just something to be remembered in April. And for those minutes in her movie Autism had the world’s attention. I appreciated that.
Celebrities don’t’ have to bring awareness to causes even if those very issues are close to them. They don’t owe the public although we as fans sometimes feel that they might. So when they do bring awareness to important topics and in such a public way I think we should show support, love and maybe gratitude. And when the issue they’ve chosen to highlight is one that is of importance to us, maybe even more.
It is for that reason I’m especially grateful. So, I would like to extend a warm thank you to Ms. Toni Braxton. Mother to mother. From one blue heart to another.
Mocha Autism Network contributor, Sharisse Tracey is a writer, educator, mother of four and military spouse. Her work appears in print and online. Sharisse’s family is stationed in upstate New York where she is currently working on her memoir, In Spite Of.
Follow her on twitter @SharisseTracey.