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 similar to an insect, and one day a bully who saw a bug on the ground at school stepped on it and told my peer, “Looks like I just stepped on your cousin.”
Words aren’t harmless. They 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 the bully but just didn’t know how. All I could think about was the ignorance I saw.
When I think of the quote above, I often think about the ignorance that is still out there today. When I speak in schools about bullying prevention and autism awareness, so many children still don’t know what autism is, let alone that Autism Awareness Month is in April and World Autism Awareness Day takes place on April 2.
Other times, I asked them what attention deficit hyperactivity disorder/attention deficit disorder (ADHD/ADD), dyslexia, cerebral palsy or Down syndrome is, and they didn’t have a clue about those either.
It makes me often think about the future for our community. One of the biggest changes I observed when I moved from public school to a private school for students with disabilities in fifth grade was a significant increase in disability awareness. Not only would the school share facts about most disabilities, they would also share stories about inspiring celebrities who have disabilities to try and inspire us.
That type of awareness is something I wish more people would advocate for. It’s been shown that if you educate 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. Then hopefully these kids can focus more on making friends, getting the supports they need and living a life where cruelty among bullies is a thing of the past.
This post first appeared on KerryMagro.com.
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