April is autism awareness month. And if you know me, you know that I live with autism. My son, almost 7 now, was diagnosis with autism at about 3 years old. I take this label very seriously….too seriously actually. Right now organizations all over the country are blowing the horn of autism. Trying to bring awareness to this disorder(?) and acceptance for their loved ones on the spectrum. This post might be a little bit different from what some are talking about but hey – it’s my blog and my life with autism in it. I figure I can say whatever I want.
I’m going to start with I hate labels. I know that in situations they are sometimes needed but I really hate them. How do you label anyone anything? People are so complicated and intricate and beautiful. We aren’t labels. The same is true for autism. My son is a beautiful boy and decidedly different from typical – but autism was and still is a difficult label for me. While I cradled him in my arms for our first bath together almost immediately after he was born I knew he was different. Some sense that this little person was not going to be like other children. I dismissed it…
I watched as he grew just like any other child. He smiled, clapped and even though he wasn’t talking and walking as early as his sister he seemed perfectly fine. Around 2 the thought that something might be different began to come up again. It wasn’t discussed and when brought up by others it was dismissed. I was reassured by professionals that we were still within normal for a two-year old boy in terms of talking. But what was most concerning was that he no longer looked at us when we called his name. He did funny things – like trying to squeeze into little boxes and baskets. Something he still tries to do that as part of, what we now know, are sensory seeking behaviors. And finally went had to seek out some help. Preschool was coming and we knew something wasn’t right.
I denied for months the first time autistic was used to describe his behavior and differences. My son was cuddly and lovable and autistic children weren’t like that. I cried at his first full psychological evaluation. Then I went to full-time research overload. My mission was to learn as much about autism as possible. What was it? Where did it come from? How is it managed? These questions and so many more…everything I could find out about. I wasn’t going to continue to spread ignorance about the label and so I talked freely about my son’s diagnosis. And I still do.
And then one day something extremely humbling happened. By reverend mentioned to me that perhaps I knew the autism better than I knew my son. I was reasonably very concerned about this. I went home and I prayed. I prayed that I could see my son and know my son and not just manage his autism. And with those prayers an awareness began that has continued to grow to this day. An awareness that has also brought greater acceptance. Please don’t misunderstand, my family still has significantly different things to think about. My son IS different and if you spend time with him you WILL notice, but he is more than autism.
He is silly – he plays funny noise mimicking games. He loves to run at you and blow on your belly. He drinks milk from a straw out of a gallon… he’s a goof.
He is accepting – I can count on one hand the number of times he has gotten upset with a change in his environment. We are very blessed in this, many children with autism can’t say the same. But my little guy, he looks at the new situation and then moves on.
He is smart – he is ahead of his peers in math and can remember almost anything. He knew letters, letter sounds and numbers very early. He can problem solve independently.
He thinks – his mind is full of ideas and imaginations. I have only just begun to see this world with his drawings but he is very detailed and has something to say.
He is many things and I suppose that is my real purpose in this post. Autism awareness is really just about diversity and acceptance. We are each different – some more than others. My son will probably always be a little different though I’m sure he will learn to hide it from those he isn’t comfortable with better as he grows. And that is my real hope with autism awareness. That hopefully the number of people he feels he needs to “hide” from isn’t very big. That the world, which means individuals, can accept that there are different ways of thinking and being and that they are all ok. Whatever the difference is that person is still a person. They are more than just that simple label attached to them. They are more than the hoops they need to jump to be included. There is a whole person in there…learn from them as you do everyone else. You will be amazed.