This month is National Autism Awareness Month. This I know because my friend Jeanne, who has a son with autism, has done a really good job promoting it. Jeanne’s like that….she often uses her life to help people and with a son that has autism, she has an incredible passion to help people understand it. From the first time I met her, she talked openly about it. She views it in a way that is very balanced….both the joys he brings to her life, and the difficulty it is sometimes to be his parent. That difficulty is not usually because of him…or not much more than the tremendous difficulty it is to parent any child. Like most good parents she sees her child’s positives and negatives, parents him keeping these things in mind, and loves him for the total picture. But it’s the other people who sometimes are, well, jerks. People who should know better. Not just other kids. Adults. Teachers, even. Strangers. They make comments. They ignore. They don’t see the wonderful person that is there, but instead just see someone different. And they don’t appreciate different. They see disability instead of possibility.
Sometimes I get a bit tired of cutesy inspirational sayings on Facebook. Most of you probably already knew that. Yes, I am an admitted eyeroller (my face hasn’t frozen like that yet, Mom!) and there are days when the 15 inspirational quotes you have put up there drive me crazy. For those that sometimes read my blog, you know I use quotes a lot. I love quotes. I love to be inspired. But after a while too many in a row start to make me a bit crazy. The inspiration starts to get a bit old. OK, maybe it is more me getting jaded. I only can act on so much inspiration at one time. And yes….some of you are just hokey!!!!
But I have loved the quotes that Jeanne has posted this month. She hasn’t been excessive….she has only posted a few. But the ones she has posted have been really great. In doing it, she has explained, she has proclaimed and she has educated. Not in a way that is over-emotional, but one that really does some good. It makes us all think and consider and celebrate. So in case you missed them, I am going to share them with you.
I am fortunate to know several people with autism, at all levels of the spectrum. The joy they have brought to my life is incredible. You may know them too, and you may not have identified exactly what makes them different. Sometimes it is difficult to see. Sometimes it is difficult to diagnose. But diagnosis is a good thing. It helps you understand them a bit better. It helps them understand themselves a bit better. And it reminds us of the richness that people with autism bring to the world. One of the greatest skills to gain to cope in life is to understand ourselves a bit better. To know that our brain functions a bit different than others…..it’s good to know. And truthfully….don’t all of our brains function a bit differently anyway? (Maybe it’s just mine!)
So anyway, this month learn something new about autism. Autism Society Homepage OK….I am not going to trust you to do that on your own. I know how some of you won’t hit a link! Let me share some things straight from the autism website.
“Know the Signs: Early Identification Can Change Lives
Autism is treatable. Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.
Here are some signs to look for in the children in your life:
- Lack of or delay in spoken language
- Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
- Little or no eye contact
- Lack of interest in peer relationships
- Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
- Persistent fixation on parts of objects”
And now a bit about the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum, Asperger’s.
“Children with autism are frequently seen as aloof and uninterested in others. This is not the case with Asperger’s Disorder. Individuals with Asperger’s Disorder usually want to fit in and have interaction with others; they simply don’t know how to do it. They may be socially awkward, not understanding of conventional social rules, or show a lack of empathy. They may have limited eye contact, seem to be unengaged in a conversation, and not understand the use of gestures.
Interests in a particular subject may border on the obsessive. Children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently like to collect categories of things, such as rocks or bottle caps. They may be proficient in knowing categories of information, such as baseball statistics or Latin names of flowers. While they may have good rote memory skills, they have difficulty with abstract concepts.
One of the major differences between Asperger’s Disorder and autism is that, by definition, there is no speech delay in Asperger’s. In fact, children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently have good language skills; they simply use language in different ways. Speech patterns may be unusual, lack inflection or have a rhythmic nature, or it may be formal, but too loud or high pitched. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may not understand the subtleties of language, such as irony and humor, or they may not understand the give-and-take nature of a conversation.”<img alt="Photo:
I want kids with autism to be diagnosed sooner. I want them to grow up understanding a bit of what is going on with their bodies. I want parents and medical professionals and teachers to get them early intervention so that they can get treatment that will help them avoid some of the struggles other kids have gone through. I want parents to get help and support and understanding. I want the kids to get support too….I don’t want them growing up thinking they are weird and that something is wrong with them. I want them to know that they are special. (And OK…probably weird, too. Aren’t kids supposed to be?) I want schools equipped with people who know how to help these kids develop skills that just may not come naturally to them.
We’re all created different. There is really no normal. And if there was, who wants to be that way? We have a lovely, vibrant colorful world filled with all kinds of people whose brains and bodies function in all different kinds of ways. Autistic kids bring a richness to our world. They are beautiful and funny and creative and smart and loving and imperfectly perfect, just like the rest of us. So don’t turn your head. Don’t treat it as something shameful. Get in there and get to know about it….get to know the people behind the label. Look in the mirror and see how like you they are. And smile. And celebrate. Because them, you, me….we’re all fearfully and wonderfully made and created in the very image of God. Important pieces of the puzzle, each of us. And that is good.