April 1, 2022

Autism Awareness Month

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:20 am by autismmommytherapist

It happened so quickly if I hadn’t been paying attention I would have missed it.

This week I took my eighteen-year-old profoundly autistic son to the dentist, where he is reliably wonderful. He waits appropriately for the appointment, gets right into the chair, and lets the professionals do all sorts of uncomfortable things to him for a good twenty minutes. Part of his compliance I’m sure is maturity, and part of it is that this is just part of his twice yearly routine, and he knows he has to get through it. Sometimes the waiting room is the hardest part because it’s small, and perhaps he just wants to get the dentist over with.

Don’t we all.

Several days ago my boy and I sat in our respective chairs, and he started with his loud vocals and rocking back and forth in his chair. Three kids who looked to be middle school age were doing homework, and I noticed all were flat out staring at him. Sometimes I let things go (if I’m really tired), but more often than not I like to address the issue, spread some awareness around. So I chose who I thought was probably the oldest one, looked him in the eyes and said, “he’s okay, he’s autistic.” Without skipping a beat he replied “cool,” and all three kids resumed their homework.

Justin got a “cool.”

It’s Autism Awareness Month, and I can honestly tell you at least in my home state of NJ where everyone knows someone with autism, we are aware. There’s been a trajectory of awareness though- many years ago I would probably not have been greeted with “cool” by a middle schooler, but rather a blank stare. When Justin was little people thought he was adorable no matter what he was doing, but by the time he was a “big” kid some of the looks were not so kind. I haven’t seen any of that in years, and as an adult if anything he’s become more vocal and stimmy as he’s gotten older. Nobody seems to mind.

A huge win, especially for parents just trying to get through the day.

I’ve said this before, but I think we need to move on from awareness to acceptance. Not only acceptance of autistics as a valued part of society, but all the degrees of autism as well. Some autistics grow up to attend college, find love, have kids and careers, and that’s wonderful. Some however have lifelong struggles with even the most basic forms of communication and have behaviors, and are profoundly affected. There are many degrees of autism.

It’s called a spectrum for a reason.

So if we’re moving forward to acceptance, then I say this. I want acceptance for all autistics, no matter how mild or severe. I want to see the entire community, autistics and parents of autistics alike, accept my son’s challenges and acknowledge his worth. I want them to know that he has value equal to any individual not following a neurodivergent path, and equal value to any of his mildly autistic peers.

I want him to be seen.

And this week he was seen and accepted by the future generation, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Follow me on Facebook at Autism Mommy-Therapist

9 Comments »

  1. Amy Amirault said,

    Beautifully said. And an interesting perspective I would not have considered, the middle schoolers reaction to Autism now vs 10 years ago.

  2. fgsjr2015 said,

    I believe that not only should all school teachers receive mandatory Autism Spectrum Disorder training, but that there further be an inclusion in standard high school curriculum of a child development course that would also teach students about the often-debilitating condition (without being overly complicated). If nothing else, the curriculum would offer students an idea/clue as to whether they’re emotionally/mentally compatible with the immense responsibility and strains of parenthood.

    It would explain to students how, among other aspects of the condition, people with ASD (including those with higher functioning autism) are often deemed willfully ‘difficult’ and socially incongruent, when in fact such behavior is really not a choice. And how “camouflaging” (or “masking”), a term used to describe ASD people pretending to naturally fit in, causes their already high anxiety and depression levels to further increase.

    Though it may be clinically labelled as some other disorder altogether, I have a self-diagnosed condition involving a tumultuous combination of Autism Spectrum Disorder, ACE trauma and high sensitivity — which I freely refer to as a perfect storm of train wrecks. (Albeit I’ve found ASD has some symptoms similar to those of high sensitivity.) It’s one with which I greatly struggle(d) while unaware, until I was a half-century old, that its component dysfunctions had formal names.

    Not surprising, if one has diagnosed and treated such a formidable condition when one is very young, he/she will likely be much better able to deal with it through life. At age 54, I still cannot afford to have a formal diagnosis made on my condition, due to having to pay for a private-sector/specialized shrink in our (Canada’s) supposedly universal health-care system.

    Nonetheless, my experience has revealed to me that high-scoring adverse childhood experience trauma that essentially results from a highly sensitive introverted existence notably exacerbated by an accompanying autism spectrum disorder, can readily lead an adolescent to a substance-abuse/self-medicating disorder, including through eating. Though I’ve not been personally affected by the addiction/overdose crisis, I have suffered enough unrelenting ACE-related hyper-anxiety to have known and enjoyed the euphoric release upon consuming alcohol and/or THC. The self-medicating method I utilized during most of my pre-teen years, however, was eating.

    I also now know that my brain basically uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammatory stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines. It’s like a discomforting anticipation of ‘the other shoe dropping’ and simultaneously being scared of how badly I will deal with the upsetting event, which usually never transpires. It is like a form of brain damage.

  3. Kimberlee, Happy Autism Awareness Month! Without awareness nothing can get done.
    -Alan

  4. misifusa said,

    Happy Autism Month! Sorry I’m behind in reading your blog, but catching up…love that “COOL” comment…just made my heart sing!

  5. […] Autism Awareness Month […]


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