This post was originally published by Deb Cole on Smashed Bananas, at http://www.smashedbananas.com/index.php/2013/04/01/celebrating-autism-thats-right-i-didnt-misspeak, and is reprinted here with permission from the author.
My kid has two families and I’m not a part of both. No, this isn’t a story about adoption, not in the traditional sense of family & adoption. But, it is about belonging.
You see, this month is April. Annnnd… April is Autism Awarenessmonth around the world. Why am I doing a blog post on family & autism? Because my son is autistic. I am not upset or ashamed of that…actually, I’m proud of him. Though only 3.5 years old (on April 8th), I think he’s an Amazing kid. Most of the autistic people I have met are also pretty cool, so I think he’s in good company. They are minorities in our social societies (stats say 1-2% of individuals are autistic), and they have to struggle with our confounded, rigid, & biased social rules that not only make everyday living challenging, but many times painful for them. Despite all that, they persevere and do a better job at this “living thing” than, dare I say, most of the rest of us.
Okay, so I’m going off-track. Back to my point. April is Autism Awareness month, but that’s mostly to raise money for the research organizations & other “support” organizations that supposedly help autistics fit into our society – except that most of them don’t. Oh yes, money goes towards research, but many times for negative, degrading research on how to “cure” all these individuals that, God forbid, have different brain wiring than most of us. That is like us researching how to “cure” left-handed people because there must be something wrong if one doesn’t use their right hand as their dominate hand. (oh wait! We did do lame-brained stuff like that back in the day.)
So, a lot of the focus for the month of April is about pity, and about how depressing it is to be autistic, & how we must help pull them out of their misery and be like us “typical” folk. This, of course, upsets me. I am tired of this outlook. I’m tired of the Google search results for autism always showing negative topic results.
I look forward to the day when April as Autism month is a celebration of the diversity and uniqueness that autistic individuals bring to our society, like when we celebrate Black or Asian History month.
Though other autistic individuals do not share a blood line or genetics with my son they do have a connection and an understanding that is different than the one I share with him, and it is special in that way. I don’t have any proof (other than circumstantial evidence), but I swear there’s an emotional sixth-sense that many autistics (especially children) have where they are able to sense each other, and they are drawn to each other, like magnets with radar. No matter where we go Micah will discover and connect with other people on the Spectrum. Doesn’t matter their age either. I’ve witnessed the connection thing happen with 2-year olds on up to young adults. I know that not every autistic person is going to have a connection with another, and I know it’s not some FORCE-like connection, but I don’t worry that he’ll find a community where he feels comfortable wherever he goes. (most of the time.)
At this point Micah knows nothing about autism, or differences, or anything like that. He’s only 3, and is barely just realizing that some people have different features than he does, like skin color. But, when he’s aware of such things, in the next couple years, we will definitely explain autism to him and introduce him to his Great, Big, Autism Family. I want him to be happy & proud of his autism, to not think of himself as an oddity or defective, cause he’s not! Rather, I just want him to be accepting of this part of who he is as easy as it is for him to accept his eye color. I hope to introduce him to the online advocates/bloggers that I know or know of, to the local community & groups, and eventually have an autistic mentor for him. Hopefully it will still be as easy for him to make connections as it has been in the past. Maybe he’ll decide to be a blogger or an advocate himself, maybe not…. but, whatever he decides he’ll know that’s he’s part of a worldwide family of individuals that understand him, relate to his challenges, and celebrate with him in all of the Hand-flappiness/Spinniness that they can muster. And maybe by then Autism Awareness will be Autism Celebration month.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Sometimes you have to wander around until you find where you really belong. And sometimes it’s right where you started.”
~ Rachel Gibson, True Confessions
A few Cool things about Autism :
Working Memory – the system that holds information active in the mind, keeping it available for further processing. The capacity of working memory is limited: for numbers, for example, most people can hold seven digits at a time on average. It is also the ability to hold and process quantities of information, both verbal and non-verbal — such as, say, memorizing a musical score and rewriting it in your head. Many autistics can store huge lists of items in their minds, for extended periods, and repeat them accurately.
Attention to detail – some individuals with autism have the ability to maintain intense focus for longer period of time & will score higher on this trait than the average person. Many think in details that fall into certain categories: Visual thinkers think in photographically specific images. Music and math thinkers think in patterns. Verbal logic thinkers think in word details.
Empathy (yes, I said empathy.) – Autistic people are extremely capable of feeling and expressing love, though sometimes in idiosyncratic ways! What’s more, many autistic people are far more empathetic than the average person, though they may express their empathy in unusual ways.
Visual-Spatial – People with autism often perform well in tests that involve visual-spatial abilities, such as fixing jigsaw puzzles, or matching shapes.
Sensory Perception – Autistic brains have been found to be larger than average, and they contain an incredible amount of electrical discharges in the hearing regions. The cortical columns of the brain contain a much higher amount of cells than the norm, and also make extra connections between neurons.
(Don’t get your panties in a twist if these don’t apply to the autistic person you know. Not everyone with autism is the same; I know that.)
What do you find cool about autism? (Don’t be a Downer. There are cool things to be found in autism.)