I would like to think people have become a lot more accepting of differences. We’ve definitely progressed over the years. But the truth is there is still not enough acceptance in the world. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of amazing people that get it. Our family is surrounded by them every day. They get that while we are all uniquely made, we are also inherently the same and should be treated equally. They get that we all have strengths and weaknesses. And because they get it and they are aware, they accept and they include. They do what they can to love and support. They know that different isn’t less.
I don’t watch the news of late, but all you need to do is turn on a tv to see that we still have a long way to go as a world in loving and accepting all people of any kind. When you have a child on the autism spectrum, this is a scary thought. More than anything we want our children to be understood just like any child. We want their differences to be accepted, just like anything else that makes a person unique. Chances are you have met someone with autism or have a friend or family member with autism. There’s definitely a lot more awareness than there use to be. But unless everyone in the world chose to open their hearts to differences like autism,learn about them, and accept them, there will always be a need for more awareness. When the whole world gets it, I’ll be the first to say we no longer need any awareness of anything, even autism, because different will no longer be less to anyone.
So here’s the thing…I’m no expert on autism. Even after almost seven years of living it every day with our daughter, I still don’t have all the answers and I’m pretty sure I never will. I could be right next to someone with autism and not have a clue because the autism spectrum characteristics are as vast as the spectrum itself. I know what my own daughter is like, but that’s the only thing I really have a decent grip on. As the saying goes, “If you’ve seen one person with autism, you’ve seen one person with autism”. Most people can’t “recognize” an autistic person because they are all so different and because they are expecting them to look a certain way. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard “But she looks so normal” in reference to my own daughter. What does that even mean? What does “normal” look like?
But back to my point and I promise I have one. Awareness is so important because it’s what leads to knowledge about something, which helps with acceptance. You see when people are made aware of something, it means you are conscious of it. According to Webster’s Dictionary conscious “implies that one is focusing one’s attention on something or is even preoccupied by it”. So far, it doesn’t seem like enough people are preoccupied by autism. Another synonym of aware is sensible, which basically means someone is showing good sense or sound judgement. We already know by the “But she looks so normal” comment earlier that people aren’t always sensible. So thinking they know all about something like autism, when in actuality they don’t, does not really make them aware. The word “alive” is also associated with “aware” and it adds to the word “sensible” (according to Webster’s) “as the implication of acute sensitivity to something”. If that’s true, then we seem to have a lot of people sleeping at the wheel because we could definitely use a lot more sensitive insight when it comes to autism and any other differences. Again, check the news. It seems like we are in need of a constant stream of awareness on all fronts because different is still considered less.
Ultimately, if you’re not aware of and can’t accept differences, then what will inspire you to ever make a positive impact in this world? How will you be able to love and support those who need it if you don’t know how? How can you even begin to understand what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes if you’re not aware of what they are dealing with and don’t have an opportunity to learn more about it? Whether it is someone with autism, a caregiver, someone with anxiety, or any other challenge someone is dealing with, there’s one thing that can help you help them. Knowledge is power and the more you have, the more you can lend an ear, a shoulder or a hug to those who need it.
We have a lot of awareness months for different causes and organizations. April just happens to be the month set aside for autism. If you think about it though, as much as some of us know about autism being immersed in it daily, there’s still so much for us to learn and so much we have to teach others. Is autism challenging? Absolutely! But the more we all know, the more we all grow. And when you’re learning and growing, it’s more likely you will share what you know with others. The more you know, the more you will feel called to help. A month is not nearly enough to educate people so that they are compelled to take action. It takes a village to love and support kids like ours, so the more people we can enlighten the better. We need as many people advocating for people with autism as possible, so that we make sure they have the opportunity at an equally awesome life as any other person.
So I’ll keep spending this month helping to propel awareness. I will keep advocating daily for my daughter and all people with autism by openly sharing what it’s like for her and for us as a family, so that all people can better understand. I’ll keep giving myself an education so that we can continue to grow and learn more about her disorder as a family. And I will keep hoping that we can all learn to accept any and all kinds of differences because no matter our uniqueness, we were all created equally, by and for love. I will embrace any and all awareness for as long as it takes, until different is no longer less.
If you’re reading this blog, you are making yourself more aware, so I thank you for that. Now when you’re ready, go out there, share your knowledge, and make a difference in any way you can. The world needs you.