Autism Awareness is coming up in a few months. Autism is in the news an awful lot these days and people say we should be “aware” of autism. As the father of a 14 year old autistic boy, what does Autism Awareness mean to me?
That you/we should be aware. Aware of what you ask?
That people are different. We all have different skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses.
That people are all equal but not all the same.
There are things that you or your kid could do at 3 that my teenage son still cannot do, and may never be able to.
And that is ok. Yes, he is in intensive therapy to improve. Yes, we moved across the country to get him the best care we could. Yes, he is getting better but not at the pace we would like. His life, even with his limited abilities, is not a tragedy.
He is who he is and the situation is what it is. In addition to being autistic he is a 14-year-old boy with all the normal angst that comes with his age.
To me the point of autism awareness is not that I expect every person that I come across to work for a “cure” for my son, but that they would be aware of him.
Cut him (us) slack when we are at the store.
Sure sometimes he likes to take off his clothes and we struggle to get him to put them back on. People usually stare (unless we are at Wal-Mart–then we get stared at if we keep our clothes on) and that is fine, but please be slow to judge.
Maybe we are not the worst parents in the world. Maybe we are just average people in an extraordinarily difficult circumstance doing the best we can. Maybe you would handle the situation better; maybe not. We may never know. (Although you could find out: Adopt an autistic kid and test your skills. Then I welcome your advice and criticism, no matter how harsh.)
To me, “awareness” means that you would be “aware” that autism is a difficult circumstance. Maybe that mom at the store with the kid her size having a melt down is doing the best she can. Maybe, instead of judging, you could offer to help her with her groceries? Or at the very least, give her the benefit of the doubt and don’t pile on by saying some of hurtful things that have been said to me like:
“What is wrong with you?”
“What is wrong with him?”
“Can’t you control him?”
“What a brat?”
Just be aware that the person you are dealing with has different challenges, that are probably difficult for you to even understand, but we would appreciate it if you can go the extra mile and extend them grace.
That is what it “awareness” means to me.
Life is a gift