There is so much more to being “aware” of something than simply having the knowledge that it exists.
April is Autism Awareness Month, and today is World Autism Awareness Day. Before I had a child with autism, I probably would have thought, “Oh. Well, I’m already aware of autism. I know someone who has an autistic child. Yay me!”
Now, I realize it’s so much more than that. It’s being open to learning more about and UNDERSTANDING not only what autism is, but how it affects the people diagnosed with it, and their families. It’s understanding that there is a reason they call it the “Autism Spectrum.” Every individual with autism is different from the next. I saw a quote online: “If you’ve met one person with autism…you’ve met ONE PERSON with autism.” No two people with autism have the exact same symptoms, characteristics, or quirks.
Here are just a few things about MY son:
He is 3 1/2 and JUST starting to say approximations of words. He doesn’t say “no” yet, so when he’s unhappy about something or doesn’t want something, he screams at the top of his lungs. He likes to open and close doors. He LOVES water…sink water, bath water, toilet water…ALL WATER. He loves crackers, but he freaks out if he picks one up and it breaks. As in…he won’t eat it. (I’m thinking of inventing the “unbreakable cracker.”) He likes looking at things from a different perspective. He loves being outside. He loves the iPad. He won’t sit in my lap and look through a book (he will look through one on his own, when it’s his idea). He says “Mom” but there doesn’t seem to be any connection between the word itself and me as his Mom. He likes to look at his own hands. He flaps his hands when he’s excited about something. He likes to look at the reflection of lights off of anything. He does strange things that make people stare. He intrigues me. He baffles me. He has intelligence that, in my opinion, is just waiting to get out. He thrives on routine. He is very affectionate when he wants to be. He has a wonderful sense of humor. He smiles a lot. He is very, VERY strong-willed.
He also has autism. It’s a large part of who he is, but there is a lot more to him. As an e-mail from one of his teachers in his special needs preschool said, “He is always full of surprises.”
The Autism Community is striving for a better understanding of autism by society as a whole. They’re asking that we see them as a PERSON, not just a diagnosis. They want acceptance. They want us to be AWARE.