Saturday, April 2, 2011

Autism Awareness

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day!

It's interesting to see how far we've come since this time last year. On Autism Awareness Day 2010, I was wearing a button that read "Someone I Love Needs a Cure". I still have half a bag of those buttons floating around here someplace, but I don't want them anymore.

Firstborn's Asperger's diagnosis in August, which seemed silly and unnecessary at the time (he's so mild, only those very familiar with autism would ever recognize the signs), has been a huge eye-opener for me.

While Rosemary's Baby has symptoms (namely the language issue) that need serious, intensive intervention, Firstborn has quirks. When I was growing up in the 70's and 80's, a kid like Firstborn would just be labelled a "nerd". Certainly, he has a few issues that need a bit of smoothing out. He's disorganized (no IDEA where he picked THAT up...). His ability to explain things verbally is a little jumbled. He still refuses to wear shirts with buttons, or pants with anything but an elastic waist. These are things I can live with. He's a scatterbrained nutty professor in a 7 year-old's body. That oddball personality is not something I want to see "cured". It makes him who he is and I'd miss it if it wasn't there anymore.

What I do still need is lots of research, more therapies and more available services for all people on the spectrum. I'd like to see ALL children helped to a point where they can eventually live an independent life. I'd like that to be a guarantee. But a cure? Meh. It's just not that important to me anymore.

I was remembering recently a comment from a girl I worked with in the fast-food industry when I was a student. This particular burger chain employed people from a local Community Living program to clean tables and whatnot. One afternoon, one of those employees, a girl with Down Syndrome, was just getting off shift. As she headed out the door, one of the other girls working the till turned to me and said:

"I feel so sorry for her. Really, what kind of a LIFE is that?"

At the time, I shrugged my shoulders and went about my business. I didn't really have much of an opinion either way on the subject. But now that I have my own child with special needs, I do have an opinion. And this is it:

Who the #*%! did that chick think she was?!!

It's easy as a neuro-typical person to look at people with disabilities and differences with pity and to think of them as being somehow less. God knows, my initial reaction when I realized I didn't have a "normal" kid was one of grief. But if any good has come from this situation for me, it's that I no longer see the world the way I used to.

Without exception, the nastiest, most mean-spirited people I have ever known have all been neuro-typical. By contrast, some of the sweetest, most sensitive and caring children I've ever worked with were ones with disabilities. Many of the brightest minds of our time (and probably throughout history too) are ones that are considered disabled. Every person, regardless of ability, has a contribution to make on this planet.

This year, I ordered something different to stick on my jacket--something that expresses my feelings about autism better than those old "cure" buttons:

Couldn't have said it better myself.


Linda said...

I love that new badge!

While none of my kids have been diagnosed with Ausperger's, (one probably could be) we have dealt with OCD, ADD and panic attacks.

My son will not wear shirts with tags in the neck and used to rip them out, until I got to them first and undid the stitching. Thank goodness many shirts are tagless nowadays! He wears only specific shoes, the pants can't be close to his legs, etc. He couldn't handle college and lived at home until he was 25- when a game company approached him with a job offer, based on his hard work on the computer at home, honing his artistic talent and internet networking. He now has a career, owns a home and has a wonderful girlfriend, all things that at times I doubted could happen.

Different does not have to mean disabled. Different is what I love.


I have never liked "labels". I feel that we are all created perfectly! What is one man's quirky is another man's perfection! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.....and those who never see beauty, as far as I am concerned, have totally missed the boat. Now I know you have your hands full sometimes whith all the antics going on in your world, but if you think about it .... who among us has a perfect world!

Anonymous said...

My little brother has aspergers as well and I don't like for him or any other kid on the spectrum to be labeled. We are all different and different ain't bad.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Great, great post! All kids need understanding, acceptance, friendship and love, not labels or condescending pity from those who think they're "better than."

In Real Life said...

I love that badge! I am hoping that acceptance comes along with more awareness.

I like Temple Grandin's Mother's quote in the HBO Biopic, "Different, not less."

colleen said...

Your new badge is great for everybody no 2 people are wired together the same way never mind the externals.

colleen said...

Ilove your new badge no 2 people are wired the exact same way never mind external surfaces. Hopefully our souls bind at higher level and for a greater purpose.

Frostbite and Sunburn said...

I love your badge.

I recently read a Jodi Picoult book based around a character with Aspergers. I don't know how good, bad or fair the portrayal was (but she does appear to do some extensive research) and I would say she explained exactly what you are discovering about your own precious kids - different really is OK.

Laural Out Loud said...

What a boring world we would have if everyone was the same. Some of the most eccentric people have contributed the most to humankind!

LOVE the badge :-)

Brittany D'Lynne said...

I want to see the sweater!!! Post it! :)

BODECI body said...

Wonderful and refreshingly real. Thank youfor this post. I've met several moms with children who have Asberger's or Austism and they appear to be in a similar mind set with it that you are.
All of our kids have something(s) that are not "normal". It seems only when it involves the public school systems, where "norms" are set that we use labels that define a person.
Austism or Ausperger's does not define our children, it's just a part of them. xox

Savvy Gal said...

I love reading this post.

Dimple said...

I love the badge, I want one!!!

My Asperger's child is living in another state, and is going to be married, we think it will be in June. He is different in the way he manages his time (not quite linear enough for left-brain me, sometimes!)as he is in most other areas. He is learning to cope with life. When he marries, even if it isn't in June, I will rejoice.

Jenny said...

I'm with you! I had a niece that was very imaginative, but the teachers couldn't get her round little body into a square peg, so she was labeled a slow learner. She could spin the most great tales, so she wasn't a slow learner. If the had left her be, she could have been the next Steven Spielberg!

Nezzy said...

Some of my favorite students were diagnosed with Ausperger's Syndrome. These children are gifted and have so much potential. Ya just gotta tune in and pull it outta 'em.

We are all different...gads, what a borin' place the world would be if we were all the same!

God bless and have a amazin' day sweetie!!!

WhisperingWriter said...

I love that my son has quirks.