As many of you know, April is Autism Acceptance month. My— how this year has flown by. Our family officially began our Autism adventure about a year ago and everyday is a new journey of learning. Through all the challenges and tears along the way, our boy has taught us much laughter, color and joy without needing to say a word. Our society has also taught us a thing or two–sometimes helpful, other times hurtful or wince-worthy. Anyhow, we try to be graceful and carry on. With May right around the corner, I would like to commission my fellow humans with a heartfelt plea to carry Autism Acceptance with you beyond this month of acceptance and awareness.
This may seem small, insignificant, or even downright nit-picky. I am talking about the special needs pout. To my fellow parents of disabled children, you know the one. You can feel it coming in your day to day interactions with humans and hope that it won’t. In any given conversation there’s always the potential that those two little words will elicit that grimacing pout–“Special Needs.” To anyone else reading this, maybe you have unknowingly been guilty of that “aww pobrecito” whimper. Don’t worry, I forgive you. It’s a journey of learning, remember?
I urge you brothers and sisters, with all the love in my heart, please stop the pout! This seemingly small, seemingly insignificant act of omission would contribute to the bigger picture in the Autism community. How is this important? Why does this even matter? I’m glad you asked. I’m not claiming to speak for every parent or loved one of someone with a disability, but I know that any time I have a conversation that inclines me to introduce the topic, I am taking a risk. The way that you react when someone feels safe enough to share a piece of their Autism journey speaks volumes. When we are met with “I’m sorry!”, the idea that disabled people are a burden or a tragedy is reinforced.
There is such an abundance of ignorance even with every passing year of “awareness” that really end up just contributing to fear mongering attitudes and pity surrounding the Autism Spectrum. You hear things like “combating autism” or “epidemic” that paint a picture of a war zone where our children are the enemy. Our children don’t need pity or the degradation that comes with person first language– as if to say we could only love our children if they were separated from their autism.
So please, can we save our pouts for our Facebook selfies and fashion runways? I love and welcome questions. I admit I am a newbie myself to this adventure. And try my best to be graceful when ignorance comes knocking at my door. But this is one small step we can all take to evoke a positive change for the disabled community.