Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Understanding the 'A' word

Yesterday was World Autism Day.  I have mixed feelings about hopping up on a soapbox and demanding the world pay attention to a cause that is personal to me.  Being silent doesn't work for me either.  I am re-posting a piece I wrote last year.  I hope as you read it, you gain a bit more understanding on what this form of neurodiversity means to me.

So apparently it is Autism Awareness Month and I was clueless.  So Happy Autism Awareness Month to you!  I don’t really follow these special focus calendar events very well.  I suppose it is a way to getting word out and having a focus for the cause.  I didn’t notice because this is my life. I am one of those quiet behind the scenes type autism moms.  Hate to cause a ruckus, you know.  But there are some things that I think people should be aware of with the autism spectrum.  Here are a few points to ponder.

If you've met one person with autism, you have met just one person with autism.  It is drastically different between people.  That's what is mysterious, frustrating and cool about it.  You see some of the similarities but many things are different about autism.  My guy has a great sense of humour and is creative, but in a different way than typical people.  I appreciate that. 

I rebelled against the word “autism” when he was first diagnosed.  It didn’t fit my prejudices of people who didn’t speak (he is highly verbal) and who would never be independent.  Yes, there are those who are severely affected by autism.  Even non-verbal people have much to say and contribute.  When the tools are found to bridge the differences, a whole world of interesting, creative and unique people can be connected.  Autism is no longer a scary word for me.

Drop your assumptions.  There are many times I think I know what Owen will do given a situation.  He surprises me all the time.  He can lose it over a book not being in the library or having to take time off school for a family vacation.  He can be the most put together guy when I’m frazzled after running late and  he would be delighted to stand up in front of the school to talk about something he loves.  You never know.  I am learning to roll with it and give him a chance at anything.

Friendships are worth the effort.  Having social and communication difficulties make connecting with others seem like an alien world to kids with autism.  They may not be quick to process how to play, have the right words or understand what is funny.  You have to be patient, explain more and allow some time to see things from their perspective.   However, you will rarely find someone more loyal, honest and eager to play by the rules as many people with autism seem to be.  Their insights and observations may make it one of the most enriching friendships you could have.

I like this YouTube video by another autism mom.  It shows how autism is to those who live with it.

Thanks for listening.  Happy Autism Awareness Month!


  1. great post is right.

    you are very right about preconceptions. there is a little guy at the jb's daycare who was diagnosed last year. he is higher up on the spectrum and is just learning to use some words. but he is the smiliest and huggiest little guy ever. and i always thought that kids with autism were stand off-ish and unaffectionate. he definately taught me that isn't the case and runs to me everyday to to give me the biggest hug ever and is starting to say my name which is awesome.