I can not believe that it has been over six years since I last blogged here. I am sorely out of practice. I was recently invited to the A to Z blogging challenge and have decided that it was time to give it a try. I post almost daily to Facebook, but that is not quite the same. I have shied away because I am not an eloquent writer. I do believe, however that we all should learn new skills, and develop skills each and every day. So, here goes.
April is Autism Awareness month. My social network feeds have been bombarded for the past two weeks with posts about Autism, so my guess is that the awareness campaign is working. I am concerned, however, with the difference between awareness and understanding. By understanding, I do not just mean an awareness or deeper comprehension of what it means to be on the spectrum, or to love someone who is. I mean understanding as in acceptance. People with Autism do not simply need us to recognize their issues. They need us to accept them in spite of them.
I recently posted a link on Facebook about the anxiety that plagues adults with Aspberger Syndrome. Aspbergers is consider high functioning Autism and those who are diagnosed with Aspbergers are considered "on the spectrum". Anxiety is a huge part of this condition and probably the one characteristic that drives so much of the behavior associated with it. If more adults could recognize that it is anxiety that causes an individual to "act differently", and work to reduce the anxiety level for that individual, we could improve their quality of life dramatically. Most people with Aspbergers are bright, talented, compassionate hard working people who just need to be given a chance instead of being ostracized for being different. We are ALL different. Different is what drives the world. We just need a better acceptance of what makes some people different than others.
To that end, I WISH I could help each and every parent who is faced with a child who is "different" to accept them for who they are. I encounter every day people who are "worried" that their child is not "normal". They do not want to see what is right in front of them and often ignore very blatant signs that their son or daughter is on the spectrum. It has been my experience that once a parent can see, and accept what makes their child different, and work WITH them to identify their triggers the stress level for both the child and the parent decreases tenfold. I recently came across a great post entitled "Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew" All parents and teachers should read this article. HELP the children cope. HELP them to understand themselves and their behavior. HELP them to be understood and accepted.
Why do I care? As an educator, I have dealt with children with Aspbergers in academic settings who were misunderstood for years. In addition, as many of you know, I have several children with Aspbergers. It has been a long struggle to bring them to adulthood and I am realizing that our journey is far from over. It is just as difficult to help them navigate being an adult with Aspbergers than is it to deal with it as a child. Made more so by the fact that most adults are far less tolerant towards other adults who are "different" than they are towards children. I implore each and every one of you reading this to think about your interactions with others. If you get a "vibe" that they are uneasy dealing with you socially, do not just write them off as "weird". They are probably struggling with how to interact. A bit of compassion and understanding can go a long, long way. Give them a chance. They may surprise you.