Helping Create a More Autistic World for My Daughter
Awareness. Acceptance. Inclusion. A common mantra known to those touched by autism. I used to be aware of autism in a vague, stereotypical way. Then my daughter was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and I became aware in a specific and personal way. Many things I loved about her — the way she talked, played, related with me, experienced the world around her — were reduced to items on a checklist that equaled a disorder. And it was in that moment I became aware of one (of many) mistaken assumptions I held — that any and every parent with an autistic child must want the autism to go away. Because I don’t. I don’t want the autism to go away. Take away the “autistic traits” and you take away many of the things that make her so uniquely and wonderfully her. Aspects of her that make me smile, laugh, cringe, grumble and sigh. Things that fill my heart so full I’m sure it will burst open and spew puzzle pieces everywhere.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses, and I don’t think autism is easy. My daughter has and will likely always have challenges that are because of autism. I’ve cried myself to sleep many times because I’m afraid I’ll never get it right. Autism is hard — not because it is bad but because this world is not well suited to autism.
I know there are those who feel differently, those who would erase it completely from their lives if possible. Those who would gladly take the opportunity to make life easier for their loved ones on the spectrum. And I don’t turn my nose up at them. Because my story is not their story. I don’t know the struggles they face day and night. I don’t know their story. But I want to. I’m just beginning this journey, and I want to learn more. I want to do more. More to make a more autistic world.
I used to be aware of autism. Now, I love autism. So don’t stop at awareness, acceptance, inclusion. Go farther. Don’t just be aware, learn. Don’t just accept, embrace. Don’t just include. Value.
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Getty image by Liderina