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The People Who Show Me the Difference Between Awareness and Acceptance

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I’ve been thinking a lot about awareness lately and reflecting on how our family has moved from a place of awareness to a place of acceptance. I thought about those times when people were “aware” of the challenges we were experiencing but did not necessarily make the transition to “acceptance.”

In one of my first posts on this blog, “Change is Never Easy… And It Shouldn’t Be,” I wrote:

We have been given so many gifts as we venture down this new path. I am liking this new destination. It’s not always easy — there have been dark days, for sure. However, I think we have become better people as a result. We have discovered empathy and understanding. We have become more flexible. We have discovered unimaginable courage and resiliency. 

You see, it wasn’t until we started accepting our child for who he is — his strengths, gifts and challenges — that we started to experience success. It was when we stopped trying to make him become who we (or others, for that matter) wanted him to be that the real change started to happen.

When I think about our champions, I realize they, too, accept our child and our family for who we are. They help us identify our strengths and our gifts. They encourage us to embrace our challenges and meet them with strength and confidence. They let us know it’s OK to be different and do things differently.

This is acceptance.

To our son’s fourth grade teacher, Dan, who created ways to build positive connections between my son and his peers. It would have been so easy to displace my son in your class, but you didn’t. And because you didn’t, you showed every other student in your class, including our son, that he belonged.

This is acceptance.

To our local curling club manager, Ken, who created the space for my son to come down and simply slide rocks down the ice because he was interested. You never pressure him to do more or to conform to curriculum. You provide the opportunity for my son to experience something he loves and to move at his own pace.

This is acceptance.

To the psychiatrist, Kelly, who realized that the best way to connect with our son is to meet him wherever he is, even if it means getting down on the floor and playing with a train set. You met with my husband and me and you validated our experiences.

This is acceptance.

To our son’s third grade teacher, Gord, who, instead of being upset that our son would move to another part of the classroom during carpet time instruction, took the time to ask our son questions after the lesson and discovered he had been listening the whole time.

This is acceptance.

To one of my dearest champions, Annie, who comes from such an incredible place of empathy and curiosity. You have never once made me feel like a failure. You’ve guided me through some dark moments, and you’ve helped me regain my courage and strength.

This is acceptance.

To my family and friends who have stuck by us all these years and have taken it upon themselves to set aside judgements and become curious. You have moved from a place of simple awareness to a place of understanding.

This is acceptance.

When I think of these and so many other examples of acceptance, I realize all these experiences have given us hope. Now I can imagine a future where we aren’t just aware of differences — we accept, embrace and celebrate them.

We start with awareness and become more knowledgeable. Then we shift our perspectives just that tiny little bit and create the space to truly embrace others.

This is acceptance.

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To learn more about autism acceptance, search for the hashtag #WalkInRed on social media.

This post originally appeared on Champions for Community Mental Wellness.

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Originally published: April 6, 2015
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