Here it is…April. Autism Awareness Month. Today is World Autism Awareness Day. This is our first “official” year promoting awareness. Last year we knew that Tate had Autism…we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do anything public to help others.
I find it…ironic, no, coincidental that our son, whose due date was May 9th, was born in April. He started Early Intervention in April. He entered Early Childhood preschool in April. His diagnosis came…in April. Interesting, no?! I feel as if a higher power was trying to tell us something about a month which we should be aware.
That being said, the thing about awareness “months”, to me, is that it is 30-ish days of a special color, ribbon, PSA on tv, social media, etc…and then the topic fades away a bit…especially if I don’t have a personal connection.
With last week’s announcement of the 2008 numbers for Autism prevalence, well, I think more and more people DO have a personal connection to Autism. So, I hope, Autism Awareness continues as the months go by…and awareness turns into acceptance and understanding.
I can see acceptance in people close to our family. People, who, a year ago today had no idea that Autism was a part of their lives..who were mystified by it…a little scared, even, of what it meant. Now, they are doing their part in promoting awareness by supporting Tate and our family.
I see acceptance when my sister joins our Walk for Autism Speaks team. Or when she puts a blue light on her porch. Or when she wants to give me her professional psychologist opinion, but just listens and assures me that I am a good mom–even when I feel like a complete mess and failure.
I see acceptance when my dad pulls a stool out for Tate so he can play with the kitchen sink at his house. My dad, who isn’t always aware, understands that the social setting of a family gathering is overwhelming, and that running water..the sound, the feel, the stream of it, it calms Tate, it helps him relax. Or when he
I see acceptance when my BIL engages Tate in a game. Or when he gives him a big high-five after hearing that Tate put his clothes on–by himself. Or when he signs up to walk with us at the Autism Speaks Walk.
I see acceptance when my MIL & FIL are excited about purchasing play doh for our son. Or when my MIL hurries through the dishes after a family dinner so that Tate can use her sink. Or when they let him turn on every fan in the house–on a crisp 50-degree day–because they know the motion, the consistent hum, help regulate him amidst the chaos that comes when cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents are together.
I see acceptance when our neighbor tells me that she’ll watch the boys for a bit…just so I can have a few minutes of quiet and “me” time. Or when she asks how therapy is going. Or when she says, “next weekend, then” when we have to decline an invite to hang out at night because it’s just too much.
I see acceptance when my SIL shows our niece the piece of blue in my hair and says, “isn’t that awesome-it’s for Autism Awareness?!” Or when she says that she and the kids have talked about Autism at home…and how they include..or try to include..Tate when they play.
I see acceptance when my oldest son helps his younger brother empty the vacuum canister so Tate can vacuum–again. Or when he lets his brother play Wonder Pets on his DS. Or when he helped an older child with Autism down the slide at the jumpy place..because he could see that the boy was overwhelmed by the maze.
I see acceptance when my friends “like” or comment on my Facebook photos of my “1 in 88”. Or applaud the shock of blue in my hair. Or dress their kids in blue today. Or dress themselves in blue. Or post something on Facebook. Or light up their houses blue.
I see understanding when the fellow church-goers hear Tate singing a song from school–during the homily–and smile, and say nothing. Or when they agree with Tate that “church pants” are not comfy. Or when they see him flipping his stim stick and say, “whatever it takes”. Or when the priest blesses him and doesn’t skip a beat when Tate says, “shoo”…and still smiles upon him.
Acceptance and understanding are out there…we have to promote THAT. As I see more acceptance and understanding, it gives me hope that Tate’s world will be a little friendlier. A little easier. A little better.
Acceptance of those who are different–for whatever reason–can be difficult. However, if we model that behavior ourselves…and show our children the examples…just IMAGINE what we can do to help everyone who is affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. Imagine…