Today is World Autism Day, and the second official day of Autism Awareness Month.
But for me, every day is Autism Awareness Day. I am an autism mom.
When my husband and I were expecting our one and only child, we were typical expectant parents. Among other important matters, we discussed and came to agreement on our views regarding parenting and discipline. We also giddily agreed to start saving for college after our first ultrasound.
One year after our perfect boy was born, we moved to a neighborhood in a good school district. We ended up finding a great house with a huge yard that (we hoped) would attract all of the kids in the neighborhood. But by preschool it was pretty clear that our son was not a typical kid. While there wasn’t a single telltale signal, he was just different.
And sadly, all of those kids in the neighborhood just weren’t drawn to our boy, or to our huge backyard.
When our son received his “Asperger Syndrome” diagnosis at the age of seven, we were very secretive about it. But over time, about a year later, we started sharing the details of his diagnosis with anyone who would listen. In our newfound awareness of autism, we wanted to help make others aware.
My awareness has evolved over the years, more than I ever thought possible:
1) I am aware of my good luck to have a great network of people who understand and appreciate our son for who he is.
2) I am now aware of why meltdowns occur in the least desirable moments, and am much more acutely aware of how to avoid such incidents in the first place.
3) I’m also aware of the fact that I no longer care about what strangers must think when our child melts down in public.
4) I am aware of the many hoops that we have had to navigate in order to get much-needed services for our son.
5) I am so very aware of the fact that we could not have navigated the search for services alone. As an autism mom, I have a network, and each of the individuals in this network has contributed at least one nugget of wisdom that has helped us along. These friends, fellow moms (and dads), and professionals continue to coax us along on this ever-evolving journey.
6) I'm aware that as difficult as it is to encourage our son to do normal kids stuff, it’s worth the effort. (Hence, the weeklong horse camp he’ll be participating in the week after school gets out. Thanks to our Multnomah County K-Plan, an aide will be accompanying our son on this adventure. Now, I just need to move a couple of mountains to secure an aide.)
7) I am aware of the futility of trying to do homework with my son. His tutor is so much better at it than I am.
8) I am quite aware of the fact that my son, while he strives to be normal, is anything but. Thank goodness.
9) I am aware of the truth that each and every one of us is different, and that those differences are worthy of celebrating.
10) I am aware that the love I feel for my son is so incredibly deep that my heart pangs in a way I had never experienced before motherhood.
11) I am aware of the need for Autism Awareness Month, because a little education and communication goes a long way toward building compassion and understanding.
Yes, I am aware.
If you’d like to be more aware of autism, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. While I can’t claim to be an expert, I’m living it and am happy to share what I know.