In the past 12 years, I’ve come to the realization that I still have a lot more to learn about my son.
For over a decade, the concept of Autism awareness has permeated our home, our neighborhood, as well as our friends and family. To say they aren’t aware of our journey, and that of our sons is not true.
Sure, they don’t understand the day to day living, but they’ve grown to accept that this is our life. Our life is full of routine and revolves around helping our son to be prepared for the world.
Today mark’s what has been widely regarded as the beginning of Autism Awareness Month. And for most of us in the community, and for our families and friends, we honestly believe people are aware of what autism is…. even if they don’t fully understand it. After all, it is difficult to understand something that of which you’ve been only made aware.
For the past few years, the autism community has been shifting its message to the public.
This shift is now a growing movement in the autism community, and that is to strive for acceptance. Which is a movement we can get behind.
The reason for acceptance is paramount to our daily lives, and I’ll share as to why this is…
Since autism is not a physical diagnosis, but a mental one, people don’t easily see that someone may have sensory issues, or have challenges in communication, or that their social skills aren’t the ‘norm’. But, autism is a part of who these individuals are, and that must be understood and accepted in order for our ability to more easily obtain the best services our kids require to overcome what the world will throw at them.
Now, I can only speak from a parent’s perspective, but it’s one that many parents in the autism community have experienced.
You see, from a parent’s perspective, we have to prove every aspect of our child’s diagnosis every day to everyone in order to obtain services. These services range from anything associated with education, medical, or even employment.
For example, Every school year the paperwork we fill out is the same. The reminder that our child is ‘less than normal’. We have to echo statements from the previous year’s paperwork, and repeat ourselves time and time again about how our child is ‘unable to succeed’ in class, or life, unless they have specific supports in place.
This often begs me to ask a rhetorical question: “How would you like to be told and reminded each and every day that the world thinks your kid is ‘less than’? “
This is the plight of an autism parent. The world tells us not to bother, or to prove to them that services are required…. again, and again.
Far too often I’m approached by parents who have these challenges because they have to prove time and time again that their child isn’t able to accomplish something due to their deficiencies because they aren’t like other ‘normal’ kids. These situations may end up becoming legal matters, and cost more than any financial value that could be applied. Often school systems or businesses will spend more in legal fees not wanting to accept responsibility, to the detriment of the autistic individual not receiving services. It can potentially be a vicious cycle, often leading to bankruptcy, divorce, or worse.
The stress associated with raising an autistic child has nothing to do with the child, as they are who they are. More often any stress in raising a special needs child is dealing with the rest of the world, proving constantly that our kids need help. Let’s read that again…
“The stress associated with raising an autistic child has nothing to do with the child, as they are who they are. More often any stress in raising a special needs child is dealing with the rest of the world, proving constantly that our kids need help.“
So, this movement to address awareness and replace it with acceptance is a good shift. We have to move beyond a basic awareness that autism exists and that there are amazing people who are actually autistic. We have to move towards accepting that autistic individuals are not ‘less than’… that they deserve to be treated ‘as equals’… and that autism families and individuals need as much support and encouragement as possible to help these fantastic individuals be amazing contributors to our society.
Now that we’ve all been made aware… let us remind ourselves that although we may not fully understand autism, it’s time for us to accept that it is here and that there are amazing and incredible people with this diagnosis that may a bit more of an assist.