I think that the vast majority of us who actually live with autism would agree that an awareness of autism and its many facets would certainly make life easier for our children and adults, in oh so many ways.
Just to be able to take a child to see a doctor without having to wait in a packed waiting room guaranteed to overload their senses would be a definite step in the right direction for many of us.
If you look up the word awareness in a dictionary you will find that the definition of awareness includes the words understanding, knowledge, grasp and appreciation.
Do we understand children and adults with autism? The people, who come into our lives at the point of, or following a diagnosis, all too often do not have a good understanding of autism and how it impacts on the lives of the child, adult and indeed the entire family. If they did understand autism they would understand that you can’t give a child a block of therapy and six weeks later expect them to ‘fit in’ and act in a neurotypical way. They would understand that forcing a child to present in the same way as their neurotypical peers does not make them neurotypical and can have a lasting and damaging impact on that child.
How knowledgeable are the people who come into our lives? Do they know for example, that while a teacher might well believe that a child is ‘happy’ and comfortable while they are in school, that child explodes through the school gates doing a fair to middling impersonation of a Tasmanian devil, as soon as the school day is over because they are not comfortable or coping in school. Do they know that parents often spend hours helping their children to self regulate and stop feeling as if every fiber of their being has been invaded and torn apart at the end of every school day?
Do the people in our lives really grasp just how difficult it can be for children and adults with autism to function well in a world that has essentially been designed to meet the needs of neurotypical and none disabled people?
If the people who come into our lives were autism aware and had depth of knowledge about the condition, they would grasp just how invasive autism can be and how you cannot turn autism on and off just to satisfy the neurotypical, none disabled world that we live in.
So do we appreciate children and adults with autism? Do we appreciate the ‘not so reasonable’ adjustments that we are constantly asking them to make to ‘fit into’ our world, day in and day out? Do we appreciate just how difficult it is for them to function in a room full of people who are all chattering and laughing at the same time? Do we appreciate the effort it takes for them to communicate effectively in a language that was never designed with autism-in-mind? No matter what language it is that we speak. Do we appreciate their uniqueness? Do we appreciate and celebrate their difference?
Do we accept children and adults with autism for themselves?
Should we during April, Autism Awareness Month, perhaps be putting as much effort into accepting children and adults with autism for the wonderful, unique individuals that they are, and making sure that acceptance is an integral part of raising awareness of a condition that is now estimated could affect as many as 1 in 50 people.
Acceptance does not mean that we do not support our children and adults and do everything that we can to be what they can be. Acceptance means accepting that they have autism and not trying to change them into someone they are not.