It’s that time of year again where everyone in the Autism community is called upon to ‘rah rah sis boom bah’ for Autism Awareness. Unless you have been living in a cave for the past decade or more, you are likely aware. I know I am completely, fully, utterly aware. Autism awareness is every day for those of us who have children on the spectrum. If you are not already aware, then chances are, it is by choice. That is why April as Autism Awareness month is just plain exhausting for me.
Yes, I said it.
I’m asking folks to take all of this wonderful awareness a step further.
Isn’t that what everyone wants? Just to be loved and accepted for who we are? I often cringe when I read comments on Autism blogs that say, “We are fighting Autism!!” I am all for research to understand and prevent possible causes. I am all for the development of therapies to help children cope with and thrive despite their disability. I am all for parents doing anything and everything they can to make their children’s life easier and to ensure that they can function to the best of their ability. That is not fighting Autism. That is being a loving parent. That’s what any of us would do.
I have been through that phase of desperation where you never feel like you are doing enough for your child, where you must DO ALL THE THINGS to make it better for them. A part of that never goes away, but personally, when I accepted my son for exactly who he is, I found peace.
Being a parent is hard, but being a parent to a child with a disability can sometimes bring you to your knees. Being a sibling to someone with Autism is hard, although my children are unequivocally better people because of it. Most of all, having Autism is hard. Sometimes even when you have the ability to speak, you cannot articulate exactly what you mean or need, which is incredibly frustrating for the child. Throw in a cluster of sensory issues and you would not believe the strength it takes just to get through each day. My boy is strong, sweet, hilarious, and so much more. He inspires me.
I will always do what I feel is in his best interest, as I would for any of my children. Now, this is where all of you come in. Encourage your children to embrace differences among all people. This includes skin color, body shape, interests, and abilities. Encourage them to seek the ways that they are alike.
Chances are, they will see there are more similarities than differences. Chances are, they will gain a new friend. Chances are, their life will be enriched by it.
Finally, befriend an ‘Autism family’. I sort of hate that term because labels are just another way to divide and to make us an ‘other’. But, be a friend. Accept that family for who they are. It may take a little more patience and understanding, but really get to know them. They will be some of the strongest, most caring and loyal people you will know. Be there, love and accept them without judgment.
Chances are, you will have friends for life.