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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Embrace What Makes You Unique: Why we need more people like Draven Rodriguez & Graham Moore

Draven-Rodriguez-01_t300_b1-black                           stay weird

From Seriously Not Boring: “Embrace What Makes You Unique~ Why we need more people like Draven Rodriguez & Graham Moore” by Jennifer Roberts Bittner 

Embrace what makes you unique! I have long held tight to that sentiment. That is the heart of this website’s title, “Seriously Not Boring.” I LOVE people who are “different.” People who offer diverse and interesting experiences, personalities, and skills. People who live passionately, love deeply, and create freely. Who see things in this world that the rest of us miss. Who refuse to conform to the rigid standards imposed upon them by the expectations of society. People who realize that beauty and strength can be found in the midst of struggle and loss. People whose different abilities give them a unique perspective of the world around them. It makes the world such an interesting place!

I think that was why I liked Draven Rodriguez SO much, although I never told him. His glorious creation for his High School yearbook was inspiring. To me it was the epitome of “Be Yourself, Be Different.” For those of you who don’t know the story, he posed with his cat on a laser background in an effort to create an UNFORGETTABLE yearbook photo. He succeeded, and the internet went wild. Sadly, not everyone was kind. Some mocked his photo and wrote rude, cruel things about him. Others praised Draven and his bravery. The school ultimately declined to allow the photo in the student section, but the Principal offered a compromise. She and her chihuahua held a special photo shoot with Draven and his cat to help raise awareness for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the image was featured on her page.

I thought his whole experience was incredible, and was inspired by Draven’s tenacity and creativity. His picture not only created a stir, it also made a difference. Draven was also involved in anti-bullying campaigns. What we know of him shows an interesting, caring young man. He seemed like someone I would have liked to meet, someone I would have been friends with in high school. I was proud of him and didn’t even know him. I saw it as a victory for our people: the different ones. Draven knew that he had become an internet meme, but I wonder if he knew how many people, like me, he had truly inspired with his picture.

Months later the world learned the sad news that Draven had died of suicide. And I wept. A LOT. Several times. I wept for a boy I never knew but felt like I knew. I wept for the world because we had lost yet another unique, sensitive soul. And I wept with Draven for the pain that he faced. I wept for myself for the times that I felt alone and different. And I wept for my son, who has Asperger’s, for the moments he feels the same way. I wept out of fear that he will face the same cruelty as Draven, simply because he is different. My son is proud of his unique brain, as am I, but insensitive, intolerant treatment by others can turn pride into shame.

Aside from being mocked on the internet I don’t know what specific struggles Draven faced. I don’t know if his troubles came from without or from within. But I do know that the world is not always kind to those who are different. I also know that quite often those who are the most creative can feel the most conflicted inside. Whatever his struggles, I grieve for what he suffered, and I grieve for our loss. The world is less interesting without him in it. Please let me be clear: I do not celebrate how he died, but I celebrate how he lived prior to that.

After I learned of his death I spent the rest of the weekend with my heart hurting, thinking about all the children who feel mocked and isolated. Thinking about how cruel the world can be. Thinking about all those people who are afraid to show their true inner sleeves for fear of how others would react.

And THEN… Graham Moore. Oh my heavens what amazing timing. Just a day after we learned of the suicide of a boy who was “different”, this man stands on a stage to accept an ACADEMY AWARD and tells the world just what it needed to hear: “I tried to commit suicide at 16 and now I’m standing here,” he said. “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along.” And I started crying again. Oh Draven, his words were for you!

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