I’m not wearing blue on April 2. I’m not wearing blue to spread Autism Awareness. I understand it’s World Autism Day. I understand that we need to talk about this affliction because more and more of our kids have it. I understand that I’m one of the few autism parents that has a child who talks, shows affection, and contributes to society.
I understand the importance of talking about Autism, but I don’t understand how wearing blue will help those who deal with it everyday? Why do we wear colors to spread awareness? Why can’t we talk about it, share our stories and help others understand? There are many misconceptions about Autism still today. This conversation needs to happen and I’ll be a part of it.
The past ten years have been a journey. Today, for autism awareness, I will share a piece of it with you.
Years ago, I never guessed my quirky son was on the spectrum. He smiled at me. He laughed. He looked into my eyes and straight at the camera. Ten years ago, all I knew about autism was: no eye contact, little conversation, and being lost in their own world. I was wrong. Hollywood was wrong. Society did not know. We need to know how wrong those thoughts are in order to help kids on spectrum. (It was my son’s response to early intervention that has helped him with his successes.)
My son is not in his own world and he is still on the spectrum.
Years ago, he didn’t fit my understanding of the autism spectrum. However, he wasn’t talking. He wasn’t able to eat meat. He could not adjust to going to bed at 7:05pm, when 7:00 was bedtime. If he didn’t sleep with his three stuffed animals, have a drink of water, brush teeth, and sing the Nigh-Nigh Time song, then he wouldn’t sleep. If we did those things later than usual, or out of the normal order, he fought them, until they were done correctly. Toys were a waste of our money, unless they required batteries and had a pattern of lights and sounds to them. Parking lots were evil, because one never knew if he’d somehow get loose and run, ignoring things like cars driving too fast.
We asked about his lack of speech. “Children who live in a language-rich house filled with books and language will learn to talk. If he’s not talking, then you need to talk with him more. Read to him. Fill your house with language,” we were told.
Others said, “He’s a boy. Boys talk later.” Except our friends’ boys had some language skills, more than ours.
He cried and cried, but we had no idea why. We asked why? “Children who feel loved and safe, don’t throw fits. He needs to feel safe.” They said.
Scott and I cried tears of frustration and failure. We didn’t know how to talk with our son more, read to him more. Love him more. Make him feel more safe and loved. We were certain that we were horrible parents, unlike everyone else around us.
Along came child #2. At six months our child said, “Mama,” while looking at me. When she was a year, she talked in full sentences. She laughed, smiled, and hardly ever cried. Schedules were for the birds. She was her own person, but calmer, easier, and happier. She was so unlike her brother in so many ways, we knew something was different about our son. That’s when we knew that those “experts” were wrong and the search for answers continued. The persistence paid off, and for that, I am grateful.
I’m not wearing blue to spread awareness, but instead, I’m sharing a piece of our journey. How will we ever evolve unless we understand that autism is different for everyone?
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