Autism Awareness Day is April 2nd. I am fairly certain it was the brilliant mind of Temple Grandin who coined the phrase, “different, not less“. It so perfectly captures my feelings. My children are autistic. They are smart, and funny, and kind, and sometimes overwhelmed, loud, and demanding. Sounds like every kid ever, right? RIGHT! That’s because they are like every kid ever, just a little different. I do not write about my children here often, because I think they deserve privacy. However, each year for World Autism Awareness Day, I will (here’s last year’s post). I will do it because I am proud of them. I will do it because I think our journey deserves tribute. I will do it because there are so many parents out there who feel alone and unsupported in their journey. You are not alone, and you don’t have to be. It can be very isolating raising special needs children. Join a support group, online community or start your own if you feel the need for support and understanding. As of yet, I have not found an Autism community that suits our family, and that’s okay.
I think, today, what I want to talk about is the sameness of our lives. Upon hearing that I have two autistic kids, people always give me that deeply sympathetic look, nod, and say something like “you must have the patience of a saint”, and wrap up by telling me how their sister’s friend’s brother has an autistic kid, so they totally get it. No, they don’t; and that’s fine. I actually cringe a little bit each time. Although, in all fairness, a few years ago, the sympathy felt like a warm blanket wrapping around me. These days, I’ve shrugged off the blanket and now wear a mother warrior goddess’s armour and stride boldly ahead into the adventure of our lives… what? too much? Yeah, that was a bit dramatic and martyr-esque, huh? Okay, fine, let’s just say “I got this shit handled”.
We, just like you, take silly photos. The difference is, that it took my son about 6 years to actually look at and acknowledge the camera. In his baby photos, he was always sort of staring off to the side at something else. Eye contact for autistic people can be challenging. My daughter , on the other hand, holds deep and expressive eye contact. I share this to illustrate that autism can and will manifest differently in each autistic person. There is no one size fits all. There is not typical. There are only individual traits of a greater spectrum.
They are becoming their own people. Honestly, I just love this photo of my daughter from Ostara. She is 8, going on 25 and a total diva, obviously. I mean, who even taught her the peace sign? Not me. She is developing into this amazingly sensitive and aware person and I am in awe of her regularly. In fact, she has finally made her very first girl friend outside of her usual (boy heavy autism) circle. For an autistic child with sever social anxiety, this is a huge step. She is a complex little girl; and it’s wonderful.
They are excited about life! They want to touch everything, try some things and play in the sun. They’re kids! You guys get the point I am trying to make here, right? Yes, there are differences in raising (and in being) autistic children, but the similarities are huge too. We are all living this life, sharing this planet, and hopefully trying to make the world a good place to be, together. I know we are. It’s not all roses and sunshine, but what ever is, really? So please, don’t feel sorry for us. We don’t need it. You know what we do need? We need more open minded and aware parents teaching their children to get to know the kid behind the behaviors. Be the change people, be the change.