A reflection on this World Autism Acceptance Day–yes, you read it right. It is not Autism Awareness that we seek for our children, our friends, our loved ones living life on the autism spectrum. To be aware of someone’s existence, their gifts, their talents, their struggles, their needs, their strengths, their words or lack thereof is not enough. I am aware of many things–but to be aware does not mean that I act. It means that I see, that I know someone, some thing, some issue is in my presence–it’s passive–no, this autism mommy seeks acceptance–that which comes from actively trying to understand, engage & include. We have journeyed along this spectrum for 13 years now, knowingly at least, because of course the journey began long before we had a name or a diagnosis for what we were seeing. And in 13 years I’ve learned a lot-about autism, about advocacy, about tenacity, about courage and about the young woman who is my daughter. 13 years in and I know autism is fluid, some challenges lessen, others become less obvious, still others remain strong–but to be accepting of who my daughter is, I must be open to understanding her–fully, wholly & completely. I must continue to know how autism lives within her, so I can teach her to advocate for herself, find her way in this world, learn, grow and have every opportunity she deserves–but it isn’t enough–No, for that to happen you, her peers, her classmates, teachers, community members and those who will one day enter her life–need to know her for who she is, come to understand how autism impacts her, work to find ways to encourage & support her success, be a part of carving out a meaningful place for her in this society that centers around the “typical.” If you are simply “aware” of her, you are not engaged, committed, invested in all that she has been through, all that she is and all that she can one day become.
I want more than blue lights–I want more than awareness–I want to be a part of creating a society that can celebrate neurodiversity, that understands that an inability to speak, does not mean there are not words to share, that doesn’t think that the ultimate compliment I could receive as a parent is, “Wow, I’d never know she has autism.” Or, “Are you sure she has autism? She doesn’t seem autistic.” I’m not looking for her to “pass off” as anything other than who she is–and autism doesn’t look, act or think in any one specific way–no, it didn’t come in a one size fits all package–but you see, if we move beyond awareness to the true act of acceptance–we’d come to know that–and then, we can do so much more.