Those on the spectrum just want to be accepted
When I tell people that my son has autism, I can usually expect one of a few different responses. “I’m sorry,” or “He doesn’t look autistic,” or “That must be so hard,” are the most common. On a rare occasion I get, “How can I help?” Having a child with a disability is something I often find difficult to explain, but let me try my best. Since April is Autism awareness month, I would like to take this opportunity to put a few things out in the universe, in hope that it may change your encounter with the next person on the spectrum.
I know that sometimes when you don’t know what to say the default is, “I’m sorry.” I don’t take offense to that but I am here to tell you that I am not sorry. With autism and ADHD comes a lot of struggle, fighting, and grief but also with Autism comes beauty. It’s a chance to see the world in way I never would have seen it otherwise. It can also be a blunt, awkward and downright frustrating. At the same time but it can also be loving, honest, and picturesque. It’s all about perspective you choose. I chose to see it as a special gift bestowed on our family to give us a glimpse and as a chance to see the world through a different set of lenses.
You’re right, he doesn’t look autistic. That’s because there are actually people walking around on the spectrum who don’t match the stereotype. You see, every person on the spectrum is different. While they might have some similarities or symptoms in common, no two people on the spectrum are the same. So if you come into contact with someone who you think doesn’t look autistic I ask you that you keep this in mind. Practice patience with everyone. There are plenty of people that don’t look autistic. Be kind, be gentle, and just take a little time to feel them out. That alone means the world.
It is hard. I won’t lie to you, or sugar coat it. It’s hard navigating the system, the schools, and medical procedures. With the disability comes a mountain of paperwork. So far, I have three plastic tubs in my garage for my 10-year-old son. With the disability comes frustration, anger and disbelief. I have honestly beat my head on the wall so many times trying to understand why this has to be so difficult and I have laid awake many a night wondering how my son will function as an adult.
You can help. It’s simple. Teach your children, your family and your friends kindness. Teach them to accept people who might be a little bit different and to reach out and watch over those people. If your kids are not around special needs kids at school then maybe you can take 10 minutes tonight and explain this to them. They may see them at church, at the mall, at the grocery store, or the park. Children with special needs are not rare or strange, they only want what everyone else wants, to be accepted.
People on the spectrum are different and parents of people on the spectrum well we are different too. Different, but not less. If you happen to cross paths with one of us, kindness is key, and acceptance is life changing.
Melissa Blosser is public information officer for Douglas County.