Sensory-friendly baseball game at UVU celebrates autism 01

Joseph Black, 6, creates bubbles as his sister, Makena, 9, reaches for the bubbles while the two sit by their sister, Lily, 6, all of Eagle Mountain, and watch a college baseball game during the Uplifting Celebration for Autism held Saturday, April 20, 2019, at the UCCU Ballpark on the campus of Utah Valley University in Orem. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

November is the month of gratitude. Although it is not officially on any observance calendar, the upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving seems to create a sense of appreciation.

Many of the people that I know on social media actually challenge themselves to name something every day of which they are grateful. The first couple of days are the easiest as they mention family, friends, faith, home, jobs, etc. These are probably the things for which most of us are grateful.

However, unless you are one of the millions of people who follow “Orange Socks” on social media, you would probably be very surprised to see how many parents of children with disabilities express their gratitude for that child and how much better their lives are for the experience. Even the families who have suffered the pain of losing that child still express their gratitude for the lessons they learned.

Since he founded “Orange Socks” in 2016, Dr. Gerald Nebeker has interviewed thousands of individuals around the world about their experiences of being parents of children with a variety of disabilities. These parents continue to corroborate what Nebeker has known from his own experiences and turned into the “Orange Socks” mission: “To educate expecting couples on the trials, joys and rewards of having a child with a disability.”

I am sure that, if asked, Dr. Nebeker would give a much more eloquent description of his motives and goals behind “Orange Socks,” but after three years of following their page on Facebook, I can personally attest to what it teaches me.

No matter what I am experiencing in my life or whatever else is coming through my “feed,” the personal stories shared on “Orange Socks” give me a feeling of hope, gratitude and a change in perspective. In moments of what others perceive as the darkest point of their life, in each story, the bottom line is the same: “Thank God I have this child in my life.” It’s also about providing couples who receive a disability diagnosis to have a network of other families who are living the same experience in whom the can connect.

To further raise awareness of support and inclusion for individuals with disabilities and their families, Nebeker has established “Orange Socks Day” on Nov. 13.

He is teaming up with formerly conjoined twins Kendra and Maliyah to continue and spread the message of how to talk to people with disabilities. The message from these twins is: “We can be more kind in the community by simply saying ‘Hi,’ waving or eating lunch with someone who is alone ... Just think of someone with a disability as you would any other person. Pay attention to people being left out of groups — invite them to join your group.”

More information about “Orange Socks” and “Orange Socks Day” can be found at http://orangesocks.org. You can also find information by following the campaign on social media, share your own story and find networks of families in similar circumstances.

Working with and around people with disabilities has changed my life for the better. Learning about the strength and love of families who share their stories on social media has changed my perspective from that of sympathy to that of hope. That is something for which I am grateful.

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