The August edition of Prevention Magazine has an interesting article about a retreat for overweight people. This place is not your usual Fat Farm: Though it does include healthy food and exercise classes, they put the scale under lock and key. They emphasize health rather than weight loss, and the cultivation of self-esteem now rather than when their participants finally regard themselves as skinny enough.

Last summer a woman wrote an article in our local newspaper about how overweight people dread summertime because they can’t wear tank tops; they’re too embarrassed about their arms. Even President Obama alluded to this seemingly universal agreement, calling his muscular wife someone who has “the right to bare arms.”

Really? Who made these rules? Myself, I appreciate it when someone is confident in their body, no matter what its size. I say, if you want to wear a tank top, wear a tank top. If someone doesn’t want to see your fat arms, they can look away.

You are probably asking, Yoga Mother, what does this have to do with autism? Are you just on a rant this week?

Well, yes. And no.

Prevention Magazine quotes a participant at the retreat who says she is done waiting to be skinny enough to do what she wants to do. She is dancing like no one is watching — even when they are — and she is going to go sky diving — just exactly the size she is now.

I can relate. I’m tired of keeping Joseph’s autism in the shadows — hiding it, being afraid of it and ashamed of it.If someone doesn’t like seeing autism, they can look away. I’m done waiting until Joseph’s autism is gone before I go places with him and enjoy our lives.

I’m ready to put autism in the light. “Yeah, my kid’s flapping his hands. It means he’s happy; isn’t that nice?” I’ll still work to help Joseph be appropriate, but that’s different from being ashamed. Why was I ashamed, anyway? Joseph is a special kid. Different, definitely, but special.

Have you ever read Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck? She’s got a Downs Syndrome kid who disappears as she and her other kids are heading into the supermarket. After some frantic moments she finds him in the outdoor nursery. An older man pulls her aside to tell her admiringly that her son sniffed every single one of the 20-some bushes for sale. He looks her in the eye and says proudly, “I’ve got one like that, too.”

How cool is that? How differently would you, and I, move through life if we really grokked how amazing people are in their differences? Especially the really different people?

No more waiting for me. It’s time to enjoy this precious gift of life. It’s time to be happy with what God’s given us.

Out of the shadows and into the light. I hereby claim The Right to Bare Autism.

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