Why is awareness and education so important? Read on…
Although the Autism community has come a long way in raising awareness, acceptance, and compassion we still have such a long way to go… Those pictures above are screen shots I took of simple searches. I got the idea to go try it after seeing a friend so upset she could barely communicate after she stumbled on something similar. The results are painful to see, but sadly they are not shocking for me. You see, David and I live this reality daily. We’ve met many wonderful people and have been shown much kindness at times, but for every kind person we encounter and/or get to work with there are several more that are quite the opposite.
Just yesterday I had someone react to David’s stimming and struggle to keep his shoes on by commenting on how I shouldn’t “bother other people with him”. She wasn’t the first either and wont be the last. I am often confronted with comments that reference caging him, leaving him at home, not subjecting others to him, putting him away (in mental wards), and worse. Just a few days ago I even had someone practically beg me to bring David to their church so they could “pray the demons out of him”. Yep. They equated being severely Autistic with being demon possessed. Or at the very least, with struggling with demons. And they weren’t talking figuratively I am sad to say.
As many of you are probably aware, April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd has even been designated as World Autism Awareness Day. It’s a movement that was started and is run by Autism Speaks. An organization that I don’t exactly like and definitely disagree with on several grounds but that could be a post all in itself. Either way though, one has to admit that this particular campaign that they’ve started has made a difference. But has it made enough of one? Has it made a good one? Are people really starting to understand better or become more aware?
The answers to those questions tend to change with each person you ask. The reality though is that no matter the answer, Autism Speaks has done their part. The rest is up to us. The families, the friends, the neighbors and community members, and those on the spectrum themselves if they are able. We have to start speaking up and stop backing down. We have to care about more than just our little corner, more than our private circle of contacts and connections. We have to take this awareness campaign and make it into something great, useful, and helpful for those living with Autism. And we need to remember not to be restrained to just one month a year, or worse… one day.
How do we do that? By talking to people and answering questions. By countering (respectfully) the comments and stares with education and reminders. By not being afraid to let our children and loved ones know they are on the spectrum and by not neglecting to help make sure they understand the beauty that can be found in that amidst all the struggles.
We can help by standing up to bullies. Whether they are attacking us, our loved one, or someone nearby. We can start befriending the children and adults on the spectrum and their families. We can help by spreading positive messages and myth busting facts by word of mouth, writing, and even social media sites like Facebook. We can join in the efforts of bigger campains by going blue for instance, or by wearing the ribbon or a puzzle piece, as it opens doors for communication and chances to educate.
Those of us living with Autism ourselves or through a loved one can spread better awareness, education and compassion simply by sharing our lives with others. By being honest about what we go through, what we can and can not do, and about the struggles and the joys that we face. We can help others understand by showing, teaching, and explaining through pictures, writings, videos, etc. The possibilities are truly unlimited. : )
The good news is there are already a lot of us in the Autism community already doing these things and more and it is making a difference. However, we need your help! Will you step up to the challenge? Will you join the fight for awareness and compassion? Will you stand by your local Autism community and/or the ones you love and care about that live with Autism daily?
If you said yes, I both want to thank you as well as encourage you to be brave, stand tall, and never forget who you’re fighting for. Let’s start making a difference that not only can be heard by the world, but can actually be seen and felt by the individual living with Autism. : )
Come on, what are you are you waiting for? Let’s go!