Friday, April 1, 2011

What I Am Aware Of

April is Autism Awareness Month.   I once read a funny shirt that said, "April is Autism Awareness Month.  Everyday is Autism Awareness Month in my house."  So true!  So, in honor of a whole month dedicated to teaching other people about, and increasing support and funding for, autism and its research, I have developed a list of things I am aware of since Autism has become a part of my life.

Ten Things I Am Aware Of:

10.   Children with Autism are often very smart.  Much smarter than their moms and dads.  Which is good, because when I can't figure out how in the world the Lego Thomas Deluxe Play Set goes back together after we've lost the instructions, Munchkin can.

9.     Children with Autism obsess about things.  Like Thomas the Tank Engine, and Toy Story, and tracks of all kinds.  But also about fires, and what might catch on fire, and how many ways we might get hurt in a fire.

8.     Children with Autism don't always make eye contact.  Munchkin told me it's too hard to hear me if he looks at my eyes.  Like many kids, he hyper-focuses on something, and his senses don't always work together.  So he has to focus on one sense (hearing) and block out the others (sight) to really listen.

7.     Children with Autism are easily overwhelmed.  So when Munchkin drops to the floor in the aisle at Target and starts wailing, he's not throwing a fit because I just told him "No, you can't have a Thomas train."  Well, not JUST because of that.  Though that may be what brought the meltdown on, you didn't notice the hundreds of other things assaulting his system since we walked through the door.  But he couldn't help but notice them, and the fact that he held it together through most of the store is a huge success.

6.     Parents of children with autism do not measure success by baby books or doctor's milestones.  Success is when your child finally gives up pull-ups completely, even if he's five years old.  Or when your child writes his name for the first time after two years of trying.  Firsts are different for us, but celebrated all the more for their individual qualities.

5.     Children with Autism--like all children--just want to fit in.  They just want to have a friend or two that they can play with. They want to be included in outings and parties and such.  They want to be allowed to join in the game with the other kids.  Teach your children to understand and include children who are different.  Please.

4.    Children with Autism have an amazing way of seeing the world.  They look at the individual parts of things, while most of us focus on the whole picture.  Munchkin has shown us some beautiful things that we didn't notice.  Like the way normal things have a rainbow around them when viewed through 3D glasses.  And how you can see through certain leaves if you hold them up to the sun.  And how the water fountain sounds like music when you listen to it.

3.     Finding out your child has Autism is not the end of the world.  We are so fortunate that Munchkin's form of Autism is a very high-functioning variety.  He is verbal, he is able to feed himself and do many self-care tasks alone.  He can go to school.  He can show love and compassion and empathy.  And one day, if he wants to, he can get married and have children and hold a job (probably in some nerdy, genius field!)  I have met many people who's children don't function at this level, and they are my heroes for what they go through every day of their lives.

2.     A cure for Autism is a very real possibility.  Researchers are getting closer and closer every year to figuring out the genetics involved.  There's even talk that they may be able to test for Autism genetic traits in the womb or at birth, which would allow intervention and therapy to start before the signs of Autism even show themselves.  This is why I support and participate in Autism Research.

1.    Autism has brought blessings to my life that I may never have experienced without it.  New friends.  More awareness about other disabilities.  A refreshed desire (and the means) to help as many people as I can.  A deeper understanding of pain and of joy.  The opportunity to find my voice in writing again.  An understanding that my kids are true gifts from God.  And the knowledge that His love is more than enough for anything life brings us.

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