Yeah. It’s April.
I tend to struggle around this month now. When I was a noob–that is a parent of a newly diagnosed kid–I was all “Yeah, Autism AWARENESS! Blue stuff! Fuck yeah!” But now, not so much.
This stems from a lot of things. Primarily, it’s because I’m not a fan of Autism Speaks or it’s model of celebrity talky talky/money raising. There are those who say they do a lot of good work–and for those people, I am glad they have something that gives them some inspiration and hope. I see a “charity” that seems to pay celebrities a great deal to raise awareness and funds, and hold “walks” only to raise more awareness and funds.
But that isn’t what my child needs.
This last weekend we went to the park. Where my child was having fun, but also feeding some sensory issues. (read: throwing sand) My Old Man was trying to get him to do something else that wouldn’t alienate every kid there when he had a conversation with a little girl who happened to be in Benji’s class. He asked her how Benji was in class or if he had any friends (since our son can’t answer this question himself) and she told him conspiratorially that “he’s kind of a bad kid”
And I wanted to puke.
Not that he’s acting up in class. I KNOW he’s acting up. I get the behavior reports. DAILY. It’s that this little girl has seen him act up, but no one has talked to her, or her peers about Ben. About his differences. About his challenges. That there hasn’t been a lesson about how to be Benji’s friend, because he has trouble initiating play.
Awareness needs to be more than numbers from the CDC and scare tactics and conversations about vaccines. It needs to be more than spreading generalizations about SOME traits that occur in SOME people with autism. There needs to be a component of compassion. While people are being made aware, maybe they could be reminded to be kind and giving and compassionate? Perhaps the awareness we need to focus on is our own awareness of OUR actions toward those around us who are different than we are.
I for one plan to spend April working on my compassion. Not only to help my child, but to help the world. Pay it forward, help the lesser of these, maybe educate someone who doesn’t know why my kid loves throwing sand. And yeah–maybe a chat with the resource teacher about helping my son’s class understand who Benji is. Because that is 100x more worthwhile to me than walking around a track all day.