Well it’s that time of year again... Autism Awareness Day. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that if you are reading this blog you are already aware of autism. You are aware of the definition. You are aware that the numbers are high and the prevalence is growing. You are probably aware that the autism colour is blue and that when you see a primary colour puzzle piece it probably represents Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you are parent of a individual on the spectrum or a person on the spectrum yourself you are probably aware of a whole lot more. And you may wish you could share that awareness with others, but you wish it was easier; that didn't take so much energy. I know I do.
Autism is complicated and individual. It is probably unrealistic for me to expect everyone who encounters my children to really get it; to know all the triggers that bother them; to know how to help them regulate; to know what they can do; to know what they find hard.
So what would be realistic? What do I want people to be aware of on this day and everyday? Here it is ... I just want you to be kind! If my daughter needs to wear headphones in a restaurant, don’t judge... just be kind. If my son delays a few seconds as he processes what you said and prepares a response don’t rush... just be kind. If a child who looks to be too old to be lying on the floor of the grocery store is in fact doing just that, don’t raise your eyebrows or worse yet reprimand the parent... just be kind.
You don’t have to know that the twelve year old in Walmart is singing Dora songs because it makes her feel secure and blocks out the sound. You don’t have to understand that the child melting down in the doctor’s office is unable to express pain and fear any other way. You don’t have to know about sensory issues and Theory of Mind and anxiety and delayed processing and super duper memory abilities and on and on. You don’t have to know that the parents may be sleep deprived or have just come out of another stressful school meeting or had to work up a whole lot of nerve to head into Walmart today. I mean we would love it if you did, but we are not expecting that. You don’t have to understand it all... just be kind anyway.
Offer a kind comment... Offer a helping-hand... Stop staring... Stop judging... even if you think your judgement is silent. Because even if the individual you are kind to doesn't have autism; even if they are just having a bad day on the floor of the grocery store; a little kindness goes a long, long way.
Paulette Moore is a mother of two, wife of one, and autism consultant of many.