April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. It was interesting to go back and read my reflection last year about this day, especially since it came just a couple of weeks after we got the J-Man’s diagnosis. Looking back, my awareness of the public landscape of autism for parents was pretty spot on, which honestly depresses me somewhat.
However, what I was barely aware of at the time was the overwhelmingly supportive community of parents, teachers, professionals, and advocates and all the wonderful children we’ve met in our journey since. Admittedly, we live only in our little corner of the spectrum, venturing only on occasion outside of our Pre-Kindergarten world. But we know there’s a whole universe of wonder out there that we haven’t yet explored.
So, ‘awareness’ for me right now comes in working to expand our horizons outside of our five-years-old-and-under world and soaking in all the goodness out there. But first, there’s this whole thing about us having a baby. 🙂
But for this post, I wanted to offer a little commentary based on what I’ve discovered over the past year for people who don’t know a lot about autism yet but want to learn. Here’s what you can do on World Autism Awareness Day, or really any day for that matter.
1. Whenever autism is mentioned on TV, mute the volume or turn it off. Whenever you read the word ‘autism’ in a newspaper, move on and read something else. Ditto for major magazines and online news media. Why? The mainstream media has demonstrated no ability in sorting out the quality information from the BS. Anybody with a loud voice, money, and a crazy idea can get prime media real estate to talk about their autism theory. The media either can’t or won’t referee the quality of the information. Lately, all they seem interested in is fomenting the controversies, which only confuses people – especially scared parents – more. Plus, you really won’t learn anything useful in any of those media outlets anyway.
On a related point – there are a lot of snake oil salespeople out there and a lot of people with their own agendas. Be very wary.
2. Which brings us to where you can learn some things – go read blogs written by parents who are telling their stories about life with their autistic children. I’ll guarantee you what you read will sound very different than 99% of the crap in the media. Where should you start? Why, there are some great blogs listed in the right column of our site! (Note: a few of them aren’t about autism directly – Wrightslaw, Rachel, Speech Therapy Today, and to some degree Special Needs Truth – though they are all important reads in my opinion for what they do.)
3. Go read some blogs written by people with autism. There you will get an even more very different view from the media. I haven’t finished my blogroll of sites written by autistic persons yet, but for starters I’ve learned a lot from reading blogs like Asperger Square 8 and Whose Planet is it Anyway? and from reading sites like Wrong Planet. In about 30 seconds you’ll realize that most people talking in the broader media about autism haven’t even bothered reading sites like these.
4. Decide today – if you do ever say it – that you won’t use the ‘R’ word anymore. I will confess publicly that I have at times in the past used this word, and I admit that to my shame. Time for us all to fix that. By the way, Spread The Word To End The Word ‘r’ Word Awareness Day was the 31st.
5. Expunge from your speech the often-used negative rhetoric about autism, starting with not repeating any of it that you hear. My child isn’t an empty shell or a shadow. He isn’t lost or broken. He is not cursed or stolen from us. He is perfect the way he is, and he is the treasure of all of our days. He has made me a better human being; he is the best teacher I’ve ever had. And he’s not even 4 yet. If anyone thinks my child is defective, I’ll set up a place to meet with them and they can tell that to my face. I suggest they bring money for cab fare to get home and a copy of their insurance card.
Decide to have a more positive view of autism in spite of all the negative messages out there. There are countless wonderful people with talents to share with the world, except that world often ignores them or assumes they have nothing to offer. Everyone deserve the opportunity to live out their potential. Go fight to help make that happen.
And don’t feel sorry for people with autism or for people like us who are proudly their parents. Support, advocate, cheer, and celebrate instead.
Extra Credit – Be aware that our kid is the cutest kid in the world! 🙂
Super Extra Credit – Remember, whenever someone says anything bad about autism or people with autism, they’re saying it about this beautiful little child – my beloved son.