If you’re like me and you follow a number of autism websites, blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, you will have noticed there is a diversity of feelings and approaches to what is officially called World Autism Awareness Day. Awareness or acceptance? Light it up blue, red, or taupe? Focus on family struggles or on respecting the value of each person? This is not to say that it’s a bad idea to make people aware of injustice and hardship. It’s necessary to do so if positive change is to take place.
But it seems to me that there are ways to mark the day and month that everyone can appreciate. We can celebrate the children and adults we know for who they are, and for all they can and do contribute to their families and communities. And we can promote inclusion by helping others to get to know them too. Let’s spotlight where we want to go.
Go out and explore the world. If you’re a parent (or a friend), choose to take your child on a new adventure. One parent writer described how she realized one day that her fear of what might happen with her child was keeping them trapped in her home. She made a decision that day to live each day as if it were their last chance to live life to the fullest.* The result? There were certainly mishaps and challenges, but in addition to stretching themselves, they found that going out into the world gave them opportunities to make new friends as well.
What could you explore with your child today? And what strategies can you plan, to keep it a safe and enjoyable outing? And if you’re an adult with autism, what new corner of the world would you like to explore?
You never know who you will meet.
Read a good book about autism or by an autistic author. Then share a short excerpt on social media, or encourage a friend to read it too. There are many amazing books to choose from. Paula Kluth posts a good list here. Recent books by Barry Prizant and Steve Silberman are also excellent, as is Jonathan Alderson’s book about autism myths. Or work through the Autism Acceptance Book with some kids, to help them understand we are all different and also all the same.
Know someone with autism – child or adult? Get to know them better. Invite them or their family over, or find out what they like to do and invite them to join you. Sometimes people on the spectrum find it difficult to build and maintain social relationships, but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy the company of others. Families of children with autism also sometimes find it difficult to connect with other families. You can take the first step and make socializing a little easier. Just be aware that some activities will work better than others.
Whatever we choose to do, may we all find a way to celebrate all that people with autism bring to their families and communities, and all that they could bring, given the opportunity.