Monday 27th April marks the start of World Autism Awareness Week. It is a chance to raise some money and help people to become more aware of Autism and how it affects many people's lives.
So what is Autism all about?
Ok lets take it back to what Autism is all about, it's a while since I personally have had to define it as I ask this question everyday. With a sixteen year old on the spectrum I am learning all the time about Autism, you can't sit down with one book, read about it and job done, that's it you know all there is to know. It takes a while to initially understand it's meaning, take in all the sciencey bits and as parent that can boggle your mind probably more than sitting through any science lesson you had at school. It is then a case of associating that science and definition of Autism and applying it to someone you know or yourself if requiring your own diagnosis.
I am at the stage where Autism fascinates me now but it has become part of my life now for twelve years. It wasn't always like that, some days I've hated it, wanted it to go away and at times I will admit I've not always coped with the understanding of it all. Now days I'm getting to grips with it more, probably as I've realised it affects most of my family including myself. It's here to stay, it is part of the family, so I've learnt to embrace it. That's not to say that sometimes even after twelve years I still want to kick it out the back door on occasions of meltdowns, sensory overload and the days where I can't get my own mind to make sense of the world. It can be very frustrating.
Do people stare?
If you are living with Autism, especially as a parent, carer, grandparent, sister, brother, cousin or friend do people stare at the person you love with autism? Does their behaviour attract attention? Do you get those looks of disapproval or the look that says 'can't you control that child'?
Yep I've had those but do you know what that is? It's just a little bit of misunderstanding.....I know - you want to say 'it's bloomin ignorant but if I go way back to before diagnosis I didn't know anything about autism at all and probably would know very little now if we hadn't gone down this pathway. We tend to draw the blinds on parts of life we just don't understand. That's until someone wakes us up and pulls up the blinds or opens the curtains, whichever furnishings you prefer.
Lets tell people and make them understand, lets tell them what it's like to live with Autism and stop people staring. We do live in a staring world. It is a general reaction when you here a noise or see something happening, I've done it myself. For me though, because I am aware of autism I can pop into 'autism mum mode', I can offer a hand or a just a simple phrase to a fellow parent trying to steer their child out meltdown city. It can just be something like 'are you okay and is there anything I can do?' Have you any idea, just how big those words are? That's why I've highlighted them. As someone on the outside you may not be able to do absolutely anything at all but the fact you stopped and offered is, and I can tell you this from experience, it is the best thing someone can do. Suddenly because someone has acknowledged that you are having a tough time, your anxiety levels start to drop and you can feel more in control. Imagine if everyone did that, it would be marvellous!
So how can we make people aware?
By taking part in Autism Awareness Week next week, either at work by raising money or holding a sponsored event. In school by holding an assembly or changing a lesson to talk about Autism. You even hold a cake sale or pop a collection box in your establishment. It isn't just about the money although this does help to provide support for people and the necessary resources to get the word out - until everyone understands.
For more information on how you can take part in Autism Awareness Week go to The National Autistic Society website at www.autism.org.uk where there is a mountain of information and resources you can print off and use to plan an event or take part in some way.
If you are unable to hold an event but you want to know more about Autism, just ask someone you know who is living and breathing it. We don't bite and as parents or people on the spectrum we will be more than happy to explain. Also one thing to bear in mind is that, one persons story is just that 'one story'. It is called a spectrum because it is a condition with a wide range of different actions and behaviours, a bit like a rainbow which contains a billion different colours, everyone is different.....unique.
I'll leave you with the link to the video available on the NAS website and catch you tomorrow.
Every Saturday I will be talking about Autism and will review any useful information which may have been highlighted at any support groups in the week.