Every year when the calendar turns over to April, I can't help but think what a great month it is in the world of spots.
The Final Four.
The NFL Draft.
Opening of the MLB season.
Yesterday, I talked to three people, at a minimum, that said that heading to the Masters is a bucket-list item, as it is for me. I don't like golf all that much, but the Masters?
Sign. Me. Up.
The Final Four is an incredible time and I've been to two of them - The Best of times (1993) and the worst of times (2011). The Draft I live every year and I've seen an opening day game or two.
But, April has taken on new significance, in some sense. It's also Autism Awareness Month. Autism never registered for me growing up or even into young adulthood. I didn't know family members or friends that were on the spectrum, as autism is described. So, I didn't understand what it was all about. I read about Doug Flutie's son Dougie who had Autism and seen a few pieces on NFL Films about him but that was the limit of my knowledge.
Then, my son Jack was born. I've never been shy about talking about my son's daily battle with Asperger's disease, which is, in short, high functioning autism. I can't even begin to tell you what he deals with on a daily basis or the sneers or comments we've received from people when Jack has an "episode" as we often say. We don't expect or ask people to feel sorry for him or for us but only for people to open their eyes and be aware. It's not called Autism Awareness month for nothing.
So, when I was scrolling through my twitter timeline the other day, I noticed the hashtag #AustismAwareness and clicked on it. As I scrolled down, I saw the avatar for Texans DT Louis Nix III.
I had seen it plenty before, but not to a point where it registered for me. Then, I realized his avatar was a ribbon made up of puzzle pieces - the universal symbol for autism. Had I clicked on the image a while ago, I would've seen that it said Autism Awareness. Of course, I wondered if there was a family member or a friend that was on the spectrum.
Our good friend Tania Ganguli of ESPN penned a great piece on Nix and his seven year old brother Matthew who has autism. Immediately, my heart sank because I didn't know this during last season. Fortunately, Nix has a great outlook on his brother and said something that resonated so much with me.
"People think autistic people are different. I think they're the same, they just do things differently."
I couldn't have said it better. Hopefully, Louis will realize that he doesn't stand alone in this or any month.
On Monday, I'll be speaking at a luncheon at the Avondale House, a school about a mile or so away from NRG Stadium that focuses on aiding/educating/assisting those on the autism spectrum. I've never been nervous about speaking to crowds but I am a little bit this time.
I just hope that I can deliver as succinct and powerful a message as Louis did, capturing the spirit of those on the spectrum.