5 Requests for Autism Awareness Month From the Mom of Autistic Children
It’s April. A few years ago, this month held no special meaning to me; it was just another month. Then I had my son, the perfect addition to our family. Looking back, the only obvious sign was hand flapping until he started preschool at 3.
I started noticing small differences between him and his peers, and his teacher was picking up on things as well. Then started the process of evaluations at school and finally to a neurologist for a screening.
By this time, I think we already knew he was autistic. Like most parents, I started reading everything I could get my hands on.
The first six months were the hardest. Looking back, I believe it was my own feelings that made those months hard. My own expectations and dreams I had already planned out for him before he was even born.
Then my daughter was diagnosed; she was almost 10. How did I miss the signs?
Now I know it was my own ignorance about what autism is. I had to really step back and re-evaluate things. On one side, I had my daughter. She was doing well in school, has a really impressive imagination and love of reading, happy, healthy. On the other, I had my son — happy, healthy, lovable, smart — and I thought, wait a minute, if my kids are doing this great, then what’s the problem? Is there a problem?
The tides began to turn. I started towards acceptance and advocating to meet their needs. I’m not perfect, and I make mistakes, but they’ve always been the same kids.
Yes, parenting isn’t always easy, but I think all parenting comes with challenges. We’ve never known any other way of doing things, and maybe that makes it easier.
So I have a few requests for this month:
1. If you meet an autistic child, don’t say “I’m sorry” to their parents — their differences are not something to apologize for.
2. Don’t assume every parent of an autistic child is the same.
3. Don’t assume every autistic child is the same or has a special talent.
4. Don’t assume everyone lights it up blue. The feelings on this month are complex, and not everyone is on the same page.
5. Keep in mind that our kids may hear you and understand what you are saying. Even if they don’t speak in a traditional manner or seem to be in their own world. Believe me when I say they’re more aware than you might think.
They’re listening — what kind of messages do we want them to hear?
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Thinkstock image by Ruslanshug