Autism – moving beyond awareness

I can’t believe April has flown by so quickly. If you’re my kids, you’re thrilled because they are that much closer to summer vacation and I have to say I’m kind of in agreement on that one. I definitely prefer summer over any other season of the year. The end of April also means the end of Autism Awareness Month. Here’s the thing, autism isn’t going anywhere, future diagnoses of autism aren’t going anywhere, and the precious kids, teens, and adults who live with autism aren’t going anywhere either. They live with autism every single day, some days more intensely challenging than others. Raising awareness is all fine and good, but it’s what we do going forward that matters more than anything. It isn’t about how much money you can donate that I’m concerned with, either, it’s how you treat my son and others with autism that I care most about. I’ve heard before that how you treat those that are less able than you are is a true sign of your character and I believe this to be true. If you’d treat someone who is nonverbal with no respect or dignity simply because they can’t tell anyone, I’m not sure how you live with yourself. Period. If you ignore them because they don’t seem to notice then that makes you equally bad in my opinion. I have actually heard before, from a family member no less, I don’t know how to talk to Cody. I was hurt and I was mad. I’m not asking you to teach him math or reading, I’m just asking you to acknowledge him as a human being much like I do with your children who sometimes misbehave and I’m quite certain they don’t have autism as an excuse. At the very least every person in this world deserves a hello or a kind smile. We all deserve to be loved and respected and treated with dignity. Doesn’t it make us better if we look out for those who have challenges or needs? Won’t it make our kids amazing human beings if they see us treating others this way and they then model the same behavior? So, yeah, even if you don’t get a response when you say hello or a smile in return for the warmth you shared, I promise you it’s noticed and appreciated by those who care for the child with autism on a daily basis. As a matter of fact it’s what keeps many of us going and believing that our kids are okay and treated well since they can’t be with us every minute of the day. We all want that for our children, but when you have a child who can’t always communiate if he’s been teased or inappropriately touched or restrained, it’s tough, super tough.

You have to trust in a way like no other.

Comments

  1. Cathy I feel a bit like I just got chewed out for something I didn’t do. I don’t know a whole lot about autism, mostly because I don’t have any real life friends or family with this. I honestly didn’t know that it’s okay for me to say hello to a child or adult that doesn’t acknowledge me. Thank you for sharing this.

    Honestly though…I’m starting to feel like there’s a lot of things I can screw up on without knowing it and incur the wrath of others. For instance I read a post not too long ago from a woman in a electric-powered wheelchair who gets pissed when people say “wow, you really operate that thing well!” her point is yeah she does because she’s in it all the time. (and then she asked if she should
    start exclaiming about how well people use their legs. She’s got a wicked sense of humor!)
    But do you see my point? I worry that I’ll never be able to play the rules and I’ll always have my foot in my mouth. But I am trying…

    • Kathy I completely see what you’re saying and I appreciate that you took the time to comment. My feelings are mostly towards those who know my son or at least know that he as autism and choose to ignore him. This is where I get very upset. I certainly don’t expect you or anyone else to just somehow know this about someone without more information, but I think as a society we sadly steer away from those with differences rather than give them a smile or a “hello.” Also, I want to convey that’s it’s *okay* and welcomed if someone reaches out and makes even the smallest effort. You can’t mess that up if it comes from a genuine place. 🙂

  2. I’d like to think that I’d know exactly how to act around a special needs child even if I didn’t have one, but who knows. Even I have had people get annoyed with me if I try to interact with their child because they flew into rages if someone looked them in the eyes. So I can see where the other commenter is coming from. But, as you said, you can’t go too far wrong if you come from a place of genuineness and sincerity 🙂
    Lynn recently posted..If Audrey Was In The Royal WeddingMy Profile

    • See that’s kind of my point, Lynn. I don’t think you should act any differently…..just act with your heart. Seriously. Kindness matters most, at least for me. Thank you so much for your comment and I definitely agree it’s tough sometimes because even if we do reach out with the best intentions not everyone is going to appreciate it. 🙂

  3. sagemom says:

    Yeah, it’s tough…for everyone–the child, the parents, those who are just learning about it, those who know nothing about it…

    And yes, it never hurts to show kindness!

    • It’s definitely a big challenge for everyone involved as we don’t always know what’s *right* in every situation. I speak only for myself when I say that it means so much to me when someone makes an effort to acknowledge Cody, even in the smallest way. 🙂

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