April is Autism Awareness Month.
It’s not that I don’t care. And it’s not about whether I do or do not support or agree with Autism Speaks. I’m aware of autism every day. And I tend to believe that most people are already aware of autism. Awareness doesn’t mean anything. People are aware of different races and religions, they’re aware of Down Syndrome and Learning Disabilities and Autism. Being aware doesn’t give people the ability to be kind, understanding or even particularly helpful. Opinion and perception are ingrained at an early age.
If we all really wanted to come together and make a difference, we would be supporting autism education. If we start educating today’s children at a young age about people who are different, and about why being different is okay, then we would begin making a difference for tomorrow.
Most large companies provide diversity training to their staff on an annual basis. Now, we know this is mostly so they can avoid lawsuits, but there’s something to be learned from this model. If a specific curriculum was developed for each grade level, beginning in Kindergarten, we would be turning out young adults that were armed with knowledge and understanding of differences. If each year children learned not just about cultural differences (Does your school have a cultural diversity night? Ours does.), but cognitive differences as well, the impact would not just be about what kind of adults they turn out to be, but it would also have an immediate impact on the rampant issues of bullying in our schools.
Education. But to be effective, it would have to be mandatory and implemented in every school, in every city and state. Now that would be something I could get behind. That would be something the autism community could actually agree upon and support.
1 in 88 children. That’s a lot of children to not know about. Blue light bulbs don’t teach others about sensory challenges. T-shirts don’t help children understand communication impairments. Awareness doesn’t stop teasing, bullying, and shunning.
You could accuse me of being selfish, and that might be true. This is personal. I want other children to understand why Connor sometimes repeats lines from TV shows and movies. I want children to understand why Connor likes to spin. I want teachers to understand that every single action stems not from a “typical” thought, but an autistic thought, because he is autistic every second of every day and, therefore, every action comes from being autistic. And I want the school to understand why I push them so hard to use a positive behavioral approach, rather than a punitive approach.
I want this for every single one of our children. I want this for us parents, so we can have just a tiny bit more hope when we send our children off to school.
And I want our government and our educational system to understand that there is value in autism. There is hope. If only we cared enough to educate others, to educate our children.
It’s something we should not ask for, but demand. We should demand that every child is educated about autism. Because with education comes understanding, and with understanding comes acceptance.
Please share this post if you agree.