Autism Awareness Month

Posted: October 30, 2013 in Community, Family
Tags: , , , , , , ,

autism-blocks

October is Autism Awareness Month in Canada. It’s a time for all of us to pause and consider our own personal level of awareness of this disorder, and how it not only affects those who have it, but those who live with someone with autism. It is all around us, has been growing steadily to the point where the media have reported it to a fare-thee-well. It has been featured in reports, movies, and just about every periodical you can think of.

      But, really, what does this all mean? As a person who lives with two people who are ‘on the spectrum’, I can tell you that, even though all this public awareness is a great tool, it only goes as far as we personally take it. Shut the television, change the channel, or put down the newspaper or magazine…at this point, for most of us neurotypical individuals, that’s where it ends. Oh, we may think of it for a while, then put it away. It’s that easy.

     For those with the disorder, it never goes away. They live it 24/7. Many of us will look at an individual with autism and think ‘how normal they appear’.  It’s an invisible disorder. Even the word ‘disorder’ is bothersome. They are born this way, are wired this way, and are often unable to navigate the world the way our society expects them to. And yet, we don’t consider this as a burden. Most often, we expect them to suck it up. If only it was that easy.

     Consider, for a moment, that you’ve misplaced your keys. If you have an abundant amount of time, you can look for them with no panic. Throw in an emergency where finding those keys become a matter of life or death, then you’ve got something completely different. I cannot speak for any other individual with autism but for the ones I live with, and this panic is a very real situation on a daily basis. Things that we take for granted – social settings, textures, smells, tastes – are often very real roadblocks in their lives.

     Often times, the problem lies in our high expectations as neurotypicals. We expect that, since they can speak and have an intelligence that is often quite extensive, they should also be able to handle answering the front door to a stranger, talking to acquaintances on the phone, go grocery shopping, or be in crowds like at the mall. Many times, however, these apparently small things are mountainous to them.

      We need to embrace their differences, and respect just how individually unique they are. Give them their space. Although we are not wired to get this, we absolutely have the collective duty to respect it. I live this every day. It’s taken me the better part of 24 years to finally get it. So I know firsthand that the average person may not understand it. I encourage you to read up on it. Read my wife’s daily blog ‘www.myaspiefiles.com’, where she documents her daily struggle to fit in. Engage in a frank conversation with anyone remotely connected to autism. There are a lot more people out there under the spectrum than you could ever know.

     2013 has been a year for my family to collectively get our ducks in a row. We have had our fair share of emotional turmoil. In particular, however, we are attempting to allow ourselves to navigate a society that is often unyielding in its demands. Autism Awareness Month is a time for all of us to do this, and to realize that we’re all different, we cannot all be painted with the same brush, and we need to some to terms with this to enable all of us to coexist without fear of prejudice.

Tolerance, understanding, love, and acceptance. They’re not just words. They are words to live by.

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