Autism ACTION Month

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April is “Autism Awareness Month,” but many say that mere acceptance is not enough. Autistic people are far too often marginalized and dismissed. Autistic adults are aware that many who claim to speak for the Autism community don’t actually ask Autistic people for their opinion. They are aware that many businesses refuse to give them a chance at meaningful employment. Parents are aware of the isolation that their Autistic children feel when they are mocked by their peers, and they are aware of the lack of sufficient resources to help their children thrive in schools.

It is not enough to be aware one month of the year, and sometimes it seems like the only people really paying attention to Autism Awareness Month are people in the community. The rest seem to just want to donate money to an Autism charity to ease their conscience and feel like they made a difference.

A startling, heartbreaking example of why we need to do MORE happened while my friend, Cindy, was out with her son, Ty. Ty is Autistic and has limited speech. He’s also sweet and funny and loved by many. Cindy gave me permission to share details of an encounter they had while inside a store:

We were approached by an employee who seemed to have an intellectual disability of some kind. “Is he special?” He asked, pointing at Ty. “He sure is!” I said. “He is VERY special and I love him very much.”

The man said, “I’m special too. So I understand. He can be my friend”. I assured him that we could be his friend too, and agreed we’d high-five him whenever we shopped there. He liked this.

“Of course, everyone else thinks we are freaks”, he said.

What could I do but laugh? “Well maybe we are ALL freaks”, I said.

As I read Cindy’s words my emotions changed from inspired to heartbroken.

Everyone else thinks we are freaks,he said. NO ONE should have to feel that way. We need to do better to make the world a more accepting place for Autism.

That young man saw a kindred spirit in Ty and asked him to be his friend. If we want to make a difference then we too should be a friend to this man and other Autistic people. And we should do it all year round, not just in April. But how?

Want to REALLY make a difference? ACCEPT. ACCOMMODATE. APPRECIATE. ADVOCATE. Take ACTION. Keep reading for some suggestions of ways that we can help improve the lives of people with Autism. They don’t need our pity, but they do need our support.  Continue reading

Autism Acceptance for Awesome Alex

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April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. So, “World,” this is Alex. Alex has Autism, and there are some things that he and I would like people to know. Alex is just like you, and different too. And we think different is pretty NOT BORING. Alex wants you to accept him just the way he is.

In the picture above he is wearing a shirt with our Autism Ninja that he helped design and his Uncle drew for him. The NinjAlex is an Autism superhero that fights for Autism acceptance and to make the world a better place. The Ninja’s original belt was modeled after one of the symbols of an organization that has meant a great deal to our family, The Autism Society of America. Plus Alex thought it looked cool. Since then the Ninja has had a costume change and sports a snazzy new acceptance infinity symbol belt. He is blue because Alex’s favorite color is blue.

We need Autism acceptance because the world can feel hostile to those who are different. Autism comes with both blessings and challenges, and it can be difficult for Autistic people to navigate a Neurotypical world that refuses to accommodate them. Alex and I hope that others will learn to appreciate what makes him unique and take action to be more welcoming to people with Autism. (For more specific ways that you can help the Autism community please see the post, “Autism Action Month. DO Something!“) Another desire is that Alex will encounter patience and compassion if others see him having a hard time, and that they offer a helping hand instead of being harsh or judgmental. His classmates at school recently demonstrated what happens when you teach children about diversity and acceptance. They are aware that Alex is Autistic and advocated for him during a misunderstanding. They inspire me!

Alex is proud of his unique brain, and says  “Autism is a great thing. No kidding. It makes me special and creative.” When asked to describe himself in only one word, he said, “I’m FABULOUS!” His big brother is his best friend and his favorite things are video games, Minecraft, sea lions, and Lego. He is also energetic, smart, and has a knack for improv comedy. When he grows up he wants to be a scientist and a video game programmer. He also says that if someone is different, “You should treat them nicely, kindly, and give them good respect.”

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A VERY Not Boring Birthday!

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