April is National Autism Awareness Month and for many parents who have children on the autism spectrum, their sincere hope is that more people do become aware of what autism is and how it affects their children. Dayton Parent reached out to two local mothers whose children have autism for their thoughts on what they want others to know.
Autism is not just one thing.
Autism is considered a spectrum disorder, which means that it presents itself along a wide range of behaviors. It is often said that when you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism – meaning that there is a great deal of individuality when it comes to people on the spectrum. “I wish the world would see people with autism as the kids, adults, individuals they are, not ‘autism walking’ or any other negative stereotype the world projects onto them,” says Joanne A. of Beavercreek, whose son has autism. “Regard them as the human beings they are.”
Being teased hurts.
Local mom Vicki S. recounts the story of a meal she shared at a restaurant with her son who has autism. Several teenagers sitting a few booths over were giggling and staring at him. Vicki left the restaurant saddened by the harsh reminder of the bullying and teasing that people with autism often face. “An individual with autism, even those non-verbal like my 13-year-old son, often have very strong receptive language skills and may be well able to perceive and comprehend most everything around them, even if they are unable to adequately express their understanding to others.”
Extend kindness, not judgement.
People with autism may feel easily overwhelmed and need space to calm down. Joanne says that visiting public places with her son presents a unique set of challenges. Bright lights, loud noises or unexpected interactions can be too much for him to process. She remembers the embarrassment she felt when other parents glared at her while her son was having a meltdown in a store. “What I really needed in those moments was grace, empathy and kindness instead of judgement.”
Those with autism are not so different from everyone else.
“People with autism desire the same respect and dignity we all strive to achieve for ourselves,” says Vicki. “They may experience the world in overwhelming HD, or as if they are wearing earbuds that are shorting out, causing them to not hear every word or have all input transmitted and received properly – circumstances that would make it harder for anyone to be successful. It is not for a lack of trying or intelligence. The world would be a more tolerant place if people would just extend grace and be more respectful.”
The month of April shines a brief spotlight on autism and how it affects people on the spectrum. For those families who have a child with autism, they hope the world will see their children for the unique, special and valuable kids they are 365 days a year.