Today is World Autism Awareness Day and it kicks off Autism Awareness Month. This is very important to me because as someone that has worked with children and adults with autism for over 20 years, I am not only very aware of autism, but also very aware of how many people are NOT.
Oh, I know that autism has been a hot button disability in recent years and it seems that many have heard that autism affects 1-88 children. But how AWARE are you of people with autism?
Yes, it is a disability technically known as Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Yes, it includes varied ranges of difficulties in social interactions, communication skills and ritualistic behaviors.
But that is not ALL that it is. Autism is nothing by itself; just a word.
Autism is a person. And all people are different. I know that many people say their disability doesn’t “define” them, and most often people, myself included, say “a person with autism” not “an autistic person”.
But let’s be honest- autism DOES determine the type of person one will be. And that is important. And it’s not bad, but it is different and it can be very, very, very difficult.
This I know second-hand; as an educator, an advocate, an observer.
People try to lump persons with autism into one definition, create one picture of what autism looks like. But that is impossible. People with autism have many more differences than they have traits in common.
Most recently, autism was connected to the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings because the shooter is said to have been autistic.
This is unfortunate because autism does NOT equal violence. Autism does NOT equal psychotic gunman.
Something that came from this tragedy in terms of communicating about autism, is a wonderful website called Autism Shines (www.autismshines.com).
Here you see page after page of beautiful children, teens and adults that are all on the autism spectrum. They are smiling, laughing, playing, hugging their parents, playing with favorite toys, playing with favorite pets, playing with their siblings and their friends.
Autism does not mean a person will be violent, aggressive or even particularly angy.
They may become frustrated when they can’t express themselves. They may become upset when they don’t understand what is expected of them in new situations. They may become upset when it is difficult to make and keep friends because they don’t want to talk endlessly about their favorite topic.
But that can be any of us on a bad day, and lots of us on a good day.
People with differences and quirks and personalities and ideas and opinions.
People worth being aware of.
So I’m going to try my best to make some of you more aware this month. Keep checking back here on Tuesdays for more Autism Awareness. Until then, you can head over to www.stimeyland.com where a mom blogs about life with her boys, one of whom is autistic. Oh, and she herself was just recently diagnosed on the autism spectrum. And she rocks. And if you get over there and you think you’ve stumbled upon a blog about gerbils, remember: quirks. You’re in the right place.
Have a great crazy day!