I ran into my six-year old son’s former daycare provider the other day. During our conversation, I told her that he had been diagnosed with autism. As soon as she heard the word autism her facial expression changed. It conveyed shock and sadness. Then she held on to both of my hands and said, “I am so sorry.” Her expression told me that she truly believed that an autism diagnosis was the worst news that a parent could possibly get. I immediately told her, “Don’t be sorry. We are doing our best for him and he is progressing.” Then she replied, “I always worried about him. Is he talking now?” I told her that Angel is saying more words than before and she smiled.
As I walked home that day, my head was spinning from the encounter. It confirmed for me that we have a long way to go to increase autism awareness and an even longer way to go for people to truly understand autism.
In the autism community, we have a saying:
If you meet one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.
This is so true. Media depictions of autism and even how you experience autism in your home and community are quite different from how my family experiences autism. Some of us have our struggles and some of us have our triumphs. It is not a walk in the park for any of us, but we persevere. We do not have a choice. Our children are depending on us.
As we go into 2014, I want to share some information about autism with you that you may not have been aware of:
- There is no known cause of autism.
- There is no cure for autism.
- Autism is not a terminal illness.
- Autism families need support not pity.
- Autism families need compassion not disdain.
- People with autism deserve respect just like anyone else.
- The challenges (communication, behavioral and social) caused by autism have a real impact on our families.
- Autism is a not a fad.
- According to the CDC, autism “affects each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe.”
- The indirect and direct costs of raising a child on the autism spectrum can have serious effects on families.
BMWK: What else do you want others to know about autism? How would you like autism awareness and acceptance to progress in the new year?
Check back every other Tuesday for additional articles from Kpana Kpoto as she shares her experiences and what she learns as she raises her son that has been diagnosed with Autism.