Awareness 2014.

Our super cool display at school. Bringing information to the masses.

Yay! Yay, yay, yay! Yesterday marked the beginning of Autism Awareness Month and to celebrate the sun was all like, "Let there be spring in Michigan!!!!!"

One of my students keeps pointing to the sky and shouting, "Look! There's the blue sun!" Hmmm.

I would have written about awareness yesterday, but I couldn't help but be all about my sister's birthday. Also, for whatever reason in this country there is a month dedicated to autism awareness, as well as a specific day. And today - April 2nd - is that day, so it all works out.

Individuals promoting autism awareness in the United States began by wearing blue today -  in a show of support and solidarity.

Blue nails for autism.

But this was only the beginning. Autism-focused events, discussions, fundraising, and campaigns will be taking place all month long. Ideally, there will also be a widespread sharing of information this month, so if you were ever interested in knowing something about autism, now is the time to look into it.

It is true that money is desperately needed to help fund autism research and services, however I think that the use of the term 'awareness' is the perfect way to describe what this month is really all about. This month is not just about who can raise the most money or volunteer the most. This month is not about pity or helping others or doing for those who cannot. In some ways this month is not about people on the autism spectrum at all.

This month is really about everyone else. The people not on the spectrum. The "neurotypicals".

Autism Awareness is about social change. It is about educating as many people as possible in order to create a better and more accepting world. People with autism spectrum disorder may find social rules difficult, but we like to ask, who made up these rules anyway? Autism Awareness is about opening up and showing autism as it really is - beautiful and challenging, rigid and complex, highly capable and requiring a little extra understanding.

Being aware means making an extra effort. Yes, it takes more time to stop and listen, really listen, to someone who has difficulty speaking. It is harder to imagine a situation from the perspective of someone who cannot describe it to you, but there are many ways to communicate and you would be surprised at how quickly you can become a better listener with a little practice.

Awareness means respect. Respecting the differences of others. Respecting ability. Respecting the desire to be independent. Respecting opinion, even when it seems wildly out of sync with what the majority of society says is right. Most of all respecting choice. Respecting the right for all people to decide how they want to live their lives.

I guess it seems like I am asking you to do a lot. And I am. I am asking you to be patient and to accept impatience. I am asking you listen harder and to understand when someone does not seem to "hear" you. I am asking you to give respect even when you may sometimes feel disrespected. I am asking you to work because, after all, people on the autism spectrum already work ten times as hard as you do to conceptualize their place in the world every, single day.

And it will all be worth it. I promise. As you learn to open your eyes and your ears and your hearts, you will become privy to some of the most interesting perspectives that have ever existed. Beyond intelligence and creativity, autism takes the intricate details of life, reorders them, and lays them out plain. You will learn something new every day and will soon experience the world with such a vivid ferocity that you will wonder how you ever managed in the monotony before awareness.

Awareness is for people on the spectrum. Awareness is for you and for me, and for the whole world.

Happy Autism Awareness Day :)


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