One of the quotes I often see out there in the autism community is…
“I don’t think the worst thing that could happen to me is raising a child with autism, I think the worst thing is to raise a child who is cruel to those with autism.”
One of my earliest memories of cruelty to another child was by a bully. My peer had a last name that sounded familiar to an insect and one day a bully who saw a bug on the ground in school stepped on it and told my peer “looks like I just stepped on your cousin.” Words can hurt our loved ones.
It made me sick to see something like that. While my peer, distraught and close to tears tried to compose himself, I wanted to say something to bully but just didn’t know the words. All I could thank about was the ignorance I saw and how I remember that occurrence to this day.
So when I think of this quote I often think about the ignorance that is out there today. When I go to speak in schools about bullying prevention and autism awareness there are still so many children I speak with who don’t know what autism is let alone Autism Awareness Month in April and World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd. Other times if I asked them what Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyslexia, Cerebral Palsy or Down Syndrome they wouldn’t have a clue either.
It makes me often think about the future for our community. Our prevalence #’s of autism are the highest they have ever been. One of the biggest changes when I moved from public school to a private school for students with disabilities in 5th grade was that I saw a significant increase in disability awareness. Not only would the school share about the facts, and characteristics of most of the disabilities, they would also share inspiring celebrities who have disabilities to try and inspire us. Some of these celebrities included Michael Jordan (ADHD), Justin Timberlake (OCD), Magic Johnson (Dyslexia) along with many others.
That type of awareness is something I wish more people would advocate for. It’s been shown that if you can give an education to a child early on, much like giving a child with autism early intervention, you can give them a great opportunity to progress as they get older.
We need to teach our kids that autism is not a tragedy. Ignorance is the tragedy. Than hopefully these kids can focus more on making friends, getting the supports they need, and living a life where cruelty among bullies were a thing of the past.