Monday, April 2, 2012

Autism - A Family Affair

Our daughter Ashley is five. She was three years old when JD was diagnosed with autism and doesn't know life without her quirky and sometimes difficult brother on the spectrum. There have been times when we've tried to explain autism to Ashley but how do you explain something so complex like autism to a little kid? 

We talk about autism and I try to explain to her why it's difficult for JD to communicate and why he is easily upset when things don't go as expected. But at the end of the day she's still five and there's only so much she can really comprehend. What we try to do is make it a good thing. Autism isn't a bad word in our family. It's something that makes JD special, something that we love him for. I never want her to feel ashamed or embarrassed by her brother, but I know that there's a good chance that will happen one day. 

With Autism Awareness Month approaching I really tried to get Ash involved. She was excited about everyone wearing blue today (but a little confused as to why everyone else at school wasn't doing the same!), we drew pictures of puzzle pieces and she helped pass out the puzzle shaped cookies to our neighbors and teachers. I have no clue if it's the right thing to do, but it's what makes sense to me. I know as the years go on I'll have to explain a lot more, so I feel like it's better to be open about it now than have it become a taboo subject at home. She's such a wonderful big sister and I know she's always going to be there for him along this journey! 

Here's a picture of me dressed in blue to shine a light on autism at work! I love being able to share my story about autism and how it's made me a better person. Don't get me wrong - I lose my cool, get frustrated with JD and want to throw in the towel some days, but all-in-all having him in my life has opened my eyes to a world so much greater than my own!

Here's my little man playing video games tonight in his blue shirt. I can't believe how big he's gotten!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Autism Awareness Month!

It's finally April - Autism Awareness Month! I've been thinking a lot about this blog post because in our family April is a month we look forward to, even celebrate. But I also know that for some families of children with autism  it's a very difficult month. That's because it brings light to a disorder that has affected so many families, some more than others, and it's difficult to put into words how bittersweet celebrating it can be.

The reason we celebrate Autism Awareness Month is simple. Raising awareness means that more people will understand, respect and hopefully empathize with families like mine. Note that I say empathize, not sympathize! We're not looking for sympathy, just empathy. Leave the judgement at the door. When you see a family struggling with a child crying, being disobedient or throwing themselves on the floor, just think for a minute before you come to a conclusion, because chances are that child might have a developmental disability like autism.

Autism Awareness also means that the world will be a better place for my child and so many others like him. Nowadays children with autism are in mainstream schools, possibly sitting next to your son, daughter, niece, cousin or grandchild. My hope is that the more people know about autism, the more they'll realize that these kids are talented, wonderful and loving children with so much to bring to our society.

Tomorrow I'll wear my blue shirt with pride, pass out 100 puzzle shaped cookies to my friends, family and coworkers and tell them how autism has changed my life. I'm proud to be an autism warrior mom, and I hope that each year I can continue seeing the blessings that JD has brought to my life, autistic or not. I wouldn't have him ANY other way!