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Archive for April 12th, 2013

I wouldn’t change you for the world but I would change the world for you.

If you were reading this blog last year, then you know that my oldest son has Aspergers Syndrome and autism advocacy is very dear to me. (2012 Autism post.) I’ve slacked off on doing one this year for Autism Awareness Month and that’s not like me. It took a while for me to figure out why but now I know. My goal is no longer “awareness.” Awareness isn’t enough. Change has to happen.

I can put the statistics out there. 1 in 88 children have autism. 1 in 54 boys. But this country is already aware of that. However, this year showed me that awareness is not equaling a difference.  My son is in 6th grade now and in 8 months, he’s been bullied by 5 children. 2 of them physically assaulted him. All because he is different. Their parents are aware of autism. I watched the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut unfold and I watched as a speculation ran rampant that the shooter was on the spectrum. Then I watched as people who should know better went on social media sites demanding that these children be locked away for the safety of society. My little boy, who won’t let me kill a spider, and thousands like him were suddenly villains to many people who are aware of autism.

The biggest realization came last month as I saw someone that I know is aware of autism complaining because a mother in front of her in line at a fast food restaurant ordered a hamburger, bun only, for her child. This person believed that mother shouldn’t bring the child to restaurants if she had to do this. I wanted to be angry but I was mostly sad. I’ve been that mother. My son has food aversions. For over a year, he would only eat peanut butter and fruit. I’ve ordered many happy meals, bun only, with apple slices. I carried a jar of peanut butter in my purse at all times and I would use the disposable knife to spread that peanut butter on the bun. My child has the right to be in public and I, as his parent, have a responsibility to take him to public places and teach him about the world.

So what’s my solution? I don’t know. Just like everything else in the autism journey we’ve been on for 7 years, it’ll be trial and error. I know the key is education. And I know I’m going to take a no excuses stand. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired or frustrated, I have to take the opportunities when they come. Regardless if they are friends or family or if I make some people angry, my child matters and I will fight for him. No more “well, they didn’t know” attitude. Who cares if it causes a scene. If Nathan is stimming in Cracker Barrel and people are already staring, I might as well teach them about my child.

MeetNathan

You may be wondering, if you’re not close to someone with autism, why you should care. The numbers are clear. 1 in 88 and those kids are growing up. Look at your company and think of 1 in 88. Your customers. Your neighbors. Possible spouses of your children. These kids are here and they are part of our future. Your life will be touched by autism. They only question is, how will you handle it? And will you look back with regret at your past actions.

So that’s my April is Autism Awareness Month post. It’s not happy and uplifting but it is honest. And I think this world could use a little more honesty.

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