Awareness + Understanding = Acceptance and Celebration
My Mother n’law says you hear about Autism all the time now on the radio talk shows and in the news. I agree it feels like there is a lot of awareness around now about Autism. I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about that but maybe because I am too close to the issue. All I can do is talk about what I see and what my son Johnny experiences.
* If my child is suddenly too loud in the check out line about something over and over again and then sounding anxious I never hear anyone whispering “I wonder if that child has Autism?” Instead my son’s statements are punctuated by deep sighs from adults nearly.
* If my child starts to cry, wale, and stomp his feet because I won’t keep walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store I don’t feel like I’m getting sympathetic looks but looks full of judgement over my apparent lack or parenting skills.
* If my child starts to suddenly make funny noises or sing loudly in store or another place where you are suppose to use “inside voice” I can feel the tension in the air around me. What do you think my son feels then? Does he feel accepted and understood or does he feel the “bad child” vibes being sent his way.
* If my child starts touching items in a store and stroking the packaging or rearranging the items on a store’s shelf are onlookers thinking he’s Autistic and just trying reorganize how he’s feeling inside or trying to control his environment when his world feels out of control at that moment?
* If my child suddenly keeps hugging and squeezing me in the lineup in the store and wanting what looks like an excessive amount of affection do people think he is a sweet boy or do they think that he is getting anxious because of all the sensory stimuli in the store and all the deep pressure from hugs and squishes is making him feel better?
* If my child suddenly stars flapping his hands and tippy toeing around in the shopping aisle are people thinking he is stimming in order to process all the sensory information his brain is receiving or do they think “that’s a weird little boy.”
Mother’s of Autistic children have developed a thick skin because we have to. We want out children to be accepted for who they are just like any Mother would but more so because of the lack of understanding when our children do something that seems so random or out of the norm. It worries me that my child still hasn’t had enough time yet to develop a thick skin as he tries to navigate the world while learning in a very different way to other children.
So that is why on this day of Autistic Awareness I want to celebrate my son’s differences and let people know that “different does not mean less” it mean less but more. I want my family and friends to think of Johnny when they are in public and see a little boy or a little girl acting in a way that might be bothering them and consider that this child may or not be Autistic. After all don’t all children deserve the benefit of doubt and be nurtured?
Graphic from http://patienttalk.org/tag/autism/