Are you going to Light It Up Blue for Autism awareness next month?
You really should. Here's why: because with all of the tragic events that have happened in the last year or two in this country, there is an ugly spotlight being cast on individuals who are diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. The Light It Up Blue promotion is in place to cast light on a very misunderstood disorder, and to help spread the awareness that people with Autism Spectrum disorders are different, not less.
My son, Sam, is five and a half years old, and he has a diagnosis of pervasive development disorder (under the Autism umbrella) and sensory processing disorder. We knew Sam was special when he was just 2 years old. He was just.....different. He acted different, communicated differently, developed differently. He scared us. Because we didn't know how to handle him, or how to help him. We felt helpless and intimidated by the road that lied ahead of us. I remember telling people (long before I had Sam) that I would never be able to handle a special needs child.
I guess God showed me. :)
Since Sam received his diagnosis, our lives have been flipped upside down.....but in a good way. Sam is unique. He is highly intelligent, but easily flustered and confused by simple, mundane tasks. He has a very high threshold for pain, and often doesn't register fear the same way a typical kid would. He is hard to understand sometimes, as his speech can be jarbled and robotic. He only eats yogurt and crackers, and gags viciously when asked to simply touch foods that are not on his safe list. He scribbles and draws Spiderman or Batman when he should be writing numbers and letters. His focus on things that don't captivate him is low, at best.
But...Sam is also brilliant. He is sharp as a tack and doesn't miss a thing. He has a steel trap memory, and can quote movies or books at random. He loves learning, and even though people think he isn't retaining a thing when he wiggles in class, he remembers every single syllable his teacher says. He loves to laugh and giggle and tease. He loves computers and coloring and reading--even though he tells people he can't read (he can.) My husband and I are convinced that Sam will wind up running the country, but he'll have the White House chef bring him Cheese-Its and Gogurt every night for dinner.
The reason I'm sharing all of this with you, is to show you that Sam (and other individuals like him) are not "retarded" or "stupid." They're amazing and incredible, and just deserve respect and patience. Autism Awareness month is so much more than just wearing a tee shirt or posting "I heart someone with Autism" on your Facebook page. It is about listening to someone on the spectrum, accepting and involving them, and treating them the same way you would like your OWN child to be treated. People on the spectrum are different, not less.
My Sam is not less. He's more. So, so much more.
Buy yourself a blue lightbulb for your front porch. Shine it proudly through the month of April. Show your support for Sam, and other individuals like him.
Thanks a million,