Are you ready for the irony of Autism Awareness Month ironies?
As many of you know, I am the southern Oregon chapter rep for the Autism Society of Oregon, and I facilitate the monthly support group meetings. Since, as all of you know, this is Autism Awareness Month, I planned to show an informative DVD of a presentation given by an adult with Asperger’s, loan out many of the books I’ve reviewed here, share some Easter candy, and give out various autism-related “goodies” – magnets, bumper stickers, symptom cards, etc. I got there a few minutes early, set up the TV/DVD player, put out all the books and paraphernalia, and thought about what I wanted to say during the meeting.
But no one came.
Now I know that many of the support group members also read this blog, and I want to assure you that I am not writing this to complain or to indicate any sort of disapproval. It’s totally okay! Some of you e-mailed to let me know that you would be out of town or otherwise engaged or might not have childcare. And while kids are always welcome to attend the meetings, I completely understand if you, the parent, would rather not have your child there, for whatever reason. Believe me, as a long-time single parent, I understand! I know how it is when you just want to get out of the house by yourself, but can’t. And I definitely know Busy. Busy and I have been hanging out too much together lately, I’m afraid. I know how it is when you just can’t add one more thing. When you’re so busy that it wouldn’t be a break to attend the meeting, and a break is the thing you need most.
And I know how it is to need a break from autism. Not necessarily from your child who has it (although that is often the case!), but from the barrage of all things autism – books, DVDs, news stories, events, meetings. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say that I’ve often felt this way! Coming up on thirteen years post diagnosis, I sometimes feel over-aware. Saturated. Not to mention tired. All of us feel this way more often than not; it comes with the territory. And so, we need a break from autism. And it’s understandable to feel a bit “over” the idea of Autism Awareness Month.
Tonight, I waited in the meeting room for twenty minutes, metaphorically shrugged my shoulders, packed up all of the autism stuff, and ate some Easter candy as I drove home. And I thought about the fact that the people who most need a break from autism don’t get one. Every day our kids must contend with painful sensory issues, communication difficulties, social misunderstandings, vulnerability, and many other issues described so well by my friend, Jess, who wrote this post that I highly recommend you read. And I highly recommend that you pass it along to your friends and relatives. Because so often we talk about what autism is, but we don’t always talk in specific terms about how it really is for our children. And once people can grasp that, wrap their minds around the reality of it, I think it will make a tremendous difference in how they view our kids and this thing called autism. That’s what I think Autism Awareness Month is for. I’m aware. You’re aware. But there’s a world of people out there who aren’t.