Our babies. Our toddlers. Our school-aged children. Our adolescents. Our children who grow into adults.
Every person who takes on the role of parent knows exactly what I'm talking about. Parenting is hard. It's a challenge. It's also for most of us, the most amazing thing that we ever experience in our lives. That being said, everybody's experience is different.
Here comes the BUT... You know the one, the one where I say BUT for parents of children on the autism spectrum or children who have developmental disabilities it is different. Well, today I'm not going to say that. Today I feel different. My thoughts today have been building slowly over time for seven years. Today I feel the power to embark on a new journey that I have never felt more pride, fear and accomplishment in accepting and embracing.
Perspective. Change in perspective. Teaching perspective taking to others.
My head is spinning.
I work as a Behavior Consultant at Alternative Community Training, an amazing organization in Columbia, Missouri. I also, at times, most of the time, parent as a Behavior Consultant. I spend a lot of time teaching people, my son included, who don't have the social skills that are needed to live and be independent in their community. I accept that. There are many days that I agree with it. But lately there are a lot of days that I hope, dream, and imagine living in a community that embraces differences in all people in a way that can and could make every interaction with others that we have a teachable moment.
Social interaction that is an experience that is filled with acceptance and not judgement. An experience that is filled with acceptance and not pity.
Social interactions between all members of our community where every member takes a few seconds to think about what the other person might be thinking before placing judgment or misinterpretation on the other person. An interaction between two people who just accept each other for who they are and who they are striving to be.
The best person that they can be in that moment.
It's nearing the end of March, and in our family that typically means gearing up for April, Autism Awareness month, a month filled with blue puzzle pieces, blue lights, walks and awareness for our son who does in fact have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. By writing this, I'm not asking you to see blue puzzle pieces and blue lights as negative or exploiting his differences in any way. I'm just asking that when you put on that blue shirt, turn on that blue light, and participate in events that bring needed awareness and education about the differences of all people that you make a real effort to not think about pity. Instead, take pride in understanding that all people are different.
On April 2nd, World Autism day, we will be wearing our blue, we will be raising awareness that brings about change and most of all we will be looking at our boy with pride, acceptance and teaching him that all people are different, have different abilities and most of all that we love being his parents completely because of who he is and who he is striving to be.