From Awareness to Acceptance – By Amy Wall Lerman, Editor-in-Chief, Baby Bloomer
Many people touched by autism would prefer the term “Autism Acceptance” Month (or Day) because that’s what it’s really about. We all want to be accepted but more than anything we want our children to be accepted – both when they’re little and when they grow up.
Before we can have acceptance, however, we need awareness. Look around you. Look at all the kids on the playground. Can you spot the loner humming to him/herself? Can you spot the child making strange movements? Can you hear a child reciting TV commercials verbatim? Can you see the kid desperately trying to play with other kids no matter how time he/she is shunned? If you can, you may be noticing a child with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). It’s a “spectrum”…so there are varying degrees of severity. On the outside, those with autism look perfectly “normal.” There is nothing to indicate that there’s a profound life-altering neurological problem going on until the “stimming” begins, the erratic words pour out, a tantrum is taking place, or someone is too close to you when they are speaking – perhaps even trying to lean on you or touch your arm.
We also need to be aware that these kids become adults – some diagnosed and some undiagnosed – and worse – some misdiagnosed. We all need to be educated because it seems autism is not going away. In fact the statistics just get “scarier.” And, we later moms, are “at risk” according to many studies.
Now here’s the crazy part – the words “scary,” and “at risk.” The more severe the autism the more anguishing for the parents and for the child, true – but as much as we wish the autism away, we love our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and friends no matter what. In fact, as Tom Hibbin expresses in one of the articles published in this issue: people with autism are amongst “the coolest you will ever meet.”
I agree. They are cool. Interesting. Funny. Smart. Fascinating. And…just like you and me – with some exaggerations. As Sherri Yandle expresses in her article “The Happy Dance,” we all have autistic tendencies. Think about what you do everyday that might be a little odd. Throw in autism and magnify that thing you do by 1000 – and there you have it. What’s so scary about that?
Okay, autism is a little scary…until you realize, it’s not.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. And please continue to read the articles in this issue. And while you read, please think about the parents grieving for their kids and their “dashed dreams” of “normal” parenting. Perhaps nothing is more poignantly expressed on that topic than Leah Rauch’s article, “Finding His Words” – a must read, if only for the sheer beauty of emotion.
Amy Wall Lerman, Editor-in-Chief of the Motherhood Later Than Sooner eZine, Baby Bloomer, is a television news producer and writer. She is the author of several books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Critical Reading and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Family Games. Her poetry has been published in an online literary journal and she maintains her own blog called Dodillydo. Amy lives in New Jersey with her husband and 4-year old son.