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Dublin: 9 °C Sunday 17 February, 2019
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The importance of #RileysChallenge, and how it almost got taken off Instagram

Now’s your chance to learn Lámh.

INSTAGRAM IS A saturated platform these days.

As the social media juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down, people are looking to bring some more reality to their feeds. No one does that more so than Nicole, from @my_boy_blue_2017.

View this post on Instagram

In the last year I have realised just how much people annoy me😂 People's views on autism can be positive but yet so so negative. The comments people have made to me have made me so angry, so sad and have brought out my inner psycho mom. Comments like: Oh he doesn't look autistic, you'd never know looking at him Ah he will grow out of that Sure throw him into a normal school he'll have to come on No child can be stressed he's just bold If he was my child he'd sit down and eat his dinner Don't label him, he'll talk when he's ready, he's just a bit slow.... I mean at learning things Oh sorry we didn't think he'd be able so we didn't invite ye I could go on for hours. At the end of the day, if you do not understand autism do not comment on my child. Do not try to tell me how to raise him. Do not comment on his behaviour. So many people have backed off since we got Riley's diagnosis. So many play dates have happened and he hasn't been invited. So many birthday parties have happened and he hasn't gotten an invitation. So many people have judged him. Random strangers have pulled their kids away from him in playgrounds because he got too excited - it took all my might not to say "he has autism, it isn't contagious". As a mom you feel like you have to explain yourself, explain his behaviour, explain why he isn't talking. You have to protect him. He's only small and he can't stand up for himself. So yes I will do it. You really do find out who your true friends are and I have to say I have the best friends in the world. People who I rant to daily, people who I cry to. Friends who have been there through the worst times and the best times. But ya, people annoy me. They drive me crazy. But in the end it's them I feel sorry for. Because I have an amazing little boy and if you cannot understand him or accept him we don't want you in our lives anyway👍🏼👍🏼 #autism

A post shared by MY BOY BLUE (@my_boy_blue_2017) on

Nicole is a single mother to her son, Riley, who is autistic. At 15 months old, Nicole noticed that her little boy wasn’t quite like the others as his speech began to drop off.

“We came to the stage with Riley that he was completely mute,” she said. 

When Riley’s doctor mentioned the word ‘autism’, Nicole said “she went home and cried for three days”.

Following his assessment, Nicole was told Riley was autistic. Since his diagnosis, she has endevoured to raise awareness about autism, inclusion, disability, among other topics via her Instagram story. Her work resulted in her taking home the award for Best Overall Influencer at the 2018 Beauty Blog Awards.

At the start of the month, Nicole kicked off a new initiative called the #SignLanguageChallenge, in which she would teach her followers how to sign a word a day in Lámh for the month of February on her Instagram story.

Lámh is a manual sign system used by children and adults with intellectual disability and communication needs in Ireland, as opposed to Irish Sign Language used within the deaf community. In short, it’s a simplified version used as a means of communication for non-verbal autistic children and their family members.

However, four days in to the challenge, Nicole claims she was asked to stop teaching Lámh on her story by the charity who run courses on the sign language, Lámh.org. (Lámh.org did not return DailyEdge.ie‘s request for comment.)

With hugely influential influencers like Ellie Kelly, Jen Hatton and Karen Constantine on board teaching their audiences every day, the intervention came as a blow.

 

elliekelly Influencer and makeup artist Ellie Kelly signing on her Instagram story. Source: @ellieekellyy/Instagram

“The only thing we want for our kids is for them to be included, to be accepted, and to be understood,” Nicole said in an Instagram post.

Following the imminent backlash on social media, Lámh have since rowed back on their decision, with the board of the charity contacting Nicole directly to apologise.

“The board are one million percent behind the 28 day challenge,” she explained on her story, now titled ‘#RileysChallenge’. “They think it’s an absolutely positive thing to do.”

Class! How do I get involved?

  1. Follow @my_boy_blue_2017 on Instagram.
  2. Every day for the month of February, Nicole posts a word to sign on her Instagram story.
  3. Record yourself making the sign and post it to your story with the hashtag #RileysChallenge.
  4. That’s it!

At times, social media can feel extremely overwhelming, and those who argue against the public’s sue of it are well-versed at this point. Nicole’s movement shines a light on an area of life which is regularly ignored in mainstream media, making her truly influential indeed.

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