Every year I ponder over my blog for this specific topic as it is so near and dear to my heart. Tomorrow, April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. As the mother of two Autistic daughters, one who is now technically an adult, I actually find myself at a loss for words with this topic. So I might as well just say what I am feeling.
I have been raising my girls (practically on my own) for 18 and almost 15 years. My eldest daughter has what used to be called Aspergers and is going to be graduating high school this year (probably with honours) and although she struggles daily with the 'normal' teenage drama, is only at a level of about a 12 year old, socially. My youngest daughter is on the more severe end of the spectrum with a dual diagnosis of severe Autism and complex needs. She is semi-verbal, has the communication and understanding of about a 2 or 3 year old and yet is the most brilliant problem solver around. If you looked at a picture of my girls you would not 'see' Autism. Most don't even realize there is anything different about my oldest upon meeting her.
I have chosen to have both of them integrated in their school their whole lives. For me this was important, not just for them, but for other children to be around them and see that not everyone is the same. I remember growing up in a school where the 'special kids' went to another classroom and we rarely had interaction with them. This didn't prepare me for anything. In my workplace, I learn every day how to 'accommodate' those that may need additional support in their daily lives. I pay attention to this and hope that one day things will be 'accessible' for my children as well.
Autism is not always seen, it might look like a 'normal' kid misbehaving in the grocery store or a child that cannot even go into a store for fear of 'sensory overload'. Remember that Autism is all around you. It is a real disorder, not a behavioural management issue. There is something in their brains missing or out of place (like a puzzle piece). Instead of judging or becoming annoyed, ask if you can help, show that you understand that this is hard time for the person in front of you, and if you just don't understand it, move on and keep your negativity to yourself!