National Autism Awareness Day 2013
It's that time of year again, folks, and although I will not be embarking upon the post-a-day challenge that I so spectacularly failed at last year, I do want to take a moment to talk about my relationship with autism.
For me, autism is both personal and professional. As most of you know by now, one of my siblings is on the autism spectrum. I remember, very clearly, when my family began to notice some inconsistencies in my brother's development - for example, his failure to respond to our calls from a very early age. At first we put it down to hearing problems, but it soon became clear that there was more to the story. I don't think my family ever imagined that we could get much more unique, or chaotic - I have eight siblings just from my Dad and Stepmom - but boy were we wrong. My brother's diagnosis brought even more diversity, more unpredictability and more excitement to our lives. He re-defined who we were and changed us all for the better.
Today, my brother is a happy and rambunctious little boy. He is playful, loving, and has a serious penchant for mischief :) He has grown and developed just like any other child, but he still has autism, and he always will. Nothing can take that away and even if there was a cure, well, most people on the spectrum, and their families, will tell you that they wouldn't want it. Take away the autism and, many feel, you take away an essential part of the individual.
This is why we need good services for autistic people of all ages, and this takes me to the 'professional' part. We need early interventions for kids that help them to develop into their full potential, while also protecting their well-being. We need programs for adults that support them to achieve a level of independence that is right for them - services that help them to feel confident and capable of living the life they want to live, within the wider context of society and the world. Something as small as having a dependable and trustworthy companion, for a few hours a day might, for example, give a person with autism the confidence to use public transportation - and that opens up a multitude of possibilities.
This is what draws me to the work that I do. It is about providing just enough assistance to make a world of difference. It is about empowering those who struggle to understand the way society works, so that they can find their own place in this world. It is about accepting who they are as individuals on the spectrum and, above all else, as human beings. It is about helping them to see that being who they are is okay, or rather, is good, and that we all have aspects to our personalities that are challenging and that require work in order to get along with everyone else.
This is my relationships with autism. This is my perspective on autism. It is a perspective that has been formed by more than a hundred individuals. Individuals that are unique and interesting, capable and opinionated. They are as diverse as any other group of people that we could choose to evaluate and their personal contributions to this world are infinite.
Love and awareness.