Last week the Centers for Disease Control revised the number of children and families affected by autism. 1 in 88. 1 in 88! 1 in 56 of those is a boy.
Being that this is Autism Awareness month, if you are not aware or don't know anyone affected by autism, you probably will be. There are things you should know about autism families because they do now walk amongst the "beautiful people."
- Autism hurts - it hurts your heart, your soul, sometimes it even hurts to breath when you look at your child and you think of the struggles they have to go through daily to do the simplest tasks. So be kind and if you can't think of anything supportive to say, just give a pat on the back.
- A lot of friends will disappear after diagnosis so the families are lonely and sad and the friends that stick around are people with souls and hearts of gold.
- If you are the kind of mother that needs to relentlessly comment on what a genius your spawn is, - YOU ALWAYS WIN WITH THE AUTISTIC FAMILY. So here is your award, so now you may possibly be able to tone it down a little when you are constantly talking about what a genius your baby is when my 5-year-old has been being potty trained for a year and a half.
- Being a mom is hard. Being a mom of a special needs kid is a level of exhaustion that you will never fathom. Bring a meal over, come sit with your friend while their kids are in therapy. Ask them what they need.
- Please keep extending invitations, one day we won't be afraid of what our kids may or may not do in public or in a new home. It's not that we don't want to go; some things are so much on our kids' sensory system we don't know what will happen and it is easier sometimes to stay in our cocoon.
- Please don't point out that my kid doesn't or won't play with your kids. I know, I am keenly aware of the social ineptness that my child suffers from.
- Don't be the informer. Don't think you have to call or email every article or piece of research of autism that comes out in the media. We have heard it, read it, seen it, laughed at it, cried at it, and been pissed at every piece of media about autism that there is.
- Don't be a well meaning moron by asking "Oh is he going to be like Rain Man? You can take him to Vegas and get rich?" Seriously - DON'T EVER SAY THAT I was shocked at how many people think that. It's not funny, and that is not AUTISM.
- Don't stare at your friends autistic kids like they are a ticking time bomb. They are not going to blow up. Don't be afraid, ask us what you can do or how to interact with the kids. They won't hurt you.
- Do know that sometimes we may call you up crying because some days the reality is a little too real.
- Know that your friend misses your old friendship and the laughter and the good times.
There is so much to be aware of with families affected by autism, but common sense and kindness will go the farthest. Make yourself aware, learn about it if you have a friend that is now touched with autism extend the olive branch. Your heart and soul will thank you for it.
The women and families in our neighborhood are the greatest example of awareness and acceptance that I have ever come across. Their children are good to my kids, they are good to my kids no matter what they may do and how they behave. I sometimes wish the rest of the world was like my neighborhood—it may make me want to venture out of my 1 mile radius :).