I wrote this post awhile back, but saved it for this month since it is Autism Awareness month. I will continue to post about autism throughout the month. I'll be sharing about my son's journey with Asperger's and have some really awesome friends who will be guest posting to share their experiences. Thank you for reading.
A close friend of mine tearfully called me a few nights ago. This is one tough lady, which made clear that the pain she was suffering was incredibly raw and real.
We get each other. Both of our boys are on the autism spectrum. Although their behaviors are very different, the struggle, heartache, triumphs, and celebrations are very similar.
Please forgive me for being vague, but I'm going to refrain from details. The bottom line is that another mother had called to discuss some concerns and through a false "in the best interest of your son" made some pretty awful statements about my friend's son. She even went as far as suggesting my friend consider a different school placement for her son.
People don't like different.
Autism is different.
When people don't like that your child is different it hurts.
My friend said it best, "I would like for her to try to walk in my shoes." Let me tell you, those shoes can be really uncomfortable and can cause a lot of pain. Unlike most shoes, these shoes don't get to come off at the end of the day. They are on all the time. The journey is long and arduous.
As my friend and I talked, it reminded me of a time when Luke was in preschool. His Asperger's behaviors were much more distinguishable in those early days and it was quite clear that he was not part of the group. Later, I found out, neither was I when another mom told me that she and every other mom in the class attended a jewlry party thrown by one of the other moms. She thought I had been invited, but just couldn't attend. No, I was simply not invited; just like how Luke wasn't included in the after school play dates and birthday parties.
People don't like different.
That is often the case for ASD (autism spectrum disorder) kids and their parents. The kiddos desperately want to be part of the group, they just know how. And their parents are heartbroken to see their children without friends. Imagine going through an entire school year without a singe birthday party or playdate invitation. It hurts. I forgot that pain of the preschool days. This particular conversation brought it all back. However, instead of feeling angry and hurt like I did then, I thought, "what can I do to make a change?"
I hate to admit that I have lost a bit of my passion for educating and advocating on behalf of autism lately. Luke has made such tremendous progress that he is undestinguished from his 2nd grade peers. Yeah, he may have a few quirky characteristics, but nothing different from other children or adults.
This conversation made me realize that I don't want to forget. I was reminded of the need for compassion. It reminded me of the need to include rather than to exclude. More importantly, it reminded me of the example we set for our children. We are responsible for teaching them to not fear and ridicule those who are different.
It starts with us.