April is Autism Awareness Month. An entire month dedicated to making society more aware of what autism is. There will be information about the suspected causes, the lack of insurance coverage, the need for research and funding. There will be discussion on diets and therapies, information on the symptoms and the need for early detection, but I just wonder if all that (as good as it is) is really going to be of any benefit to my son…. Probably not.
My son has been struggling with autism for 5 years now. He showed no signs until shortly before his second birthday when he began to lose previously acquired skills. I was one of those parents who counted 10 fingers and 10 toes and cried tears of joy with every well baby check up….. I documented dates for all the milestones on those cute little calendars, only to have it all slip away into silence.
So, what is it that my son does need at this point? More than awareness. How about understanding? How about acceptance? I want people to look at my son, not with pity, but with an admiration for the fact that no matter how hard life is for my son, he keeps fighting, he keeps smiling, he keeps his joy.
I want people to realize that my son is more than a statistic. He is a boy. A boy who laughs and cries. He has good days and bad. He likes McDonald’s cheeseburgers and hates green beans. He can quote any scene from Toy Story and he loves to watch YouTube videos. He gets scared and sometimes sad, but mostly he is happy.
He understands what you say, even if he can’t respond. The teasing doesn’t go unnoticed. He sees the stares even if he doesn’t make eye contact. He wants friends. He wants to love and be loved. He has so much to offer if only someone takes the time to discover that.
You may see flapping, you may see odd behaviors, and hear random noises. You may see him as different. You are right, he IS indeed different. He never lies, he doesn’t judge, he doesn’t say things he doesn’t mean, he doesn’t cheat, and he would never dream of rejecting someone. He doesn’t care what a person looks like, or what they can or cannot “contribute” to society. He doesn’t even know how to be unkind. He loves life and he loves his family. He prays, he sings, and he gives the best hugs in the world. Perhaps, we could all try to be a little more ‘different’.
What do I want you to know about my child with autism? He is a son, a brother, a grandson, a cousin, a nephew, a friend, and if you listen with your heart rather than your ears, he is a teacher. Autism does not define who he is, rather, he is defined by every life that he touches. He is my hero.