It’s World Autism Awareness Day. I have two sons with forms of Autism. At least one of their doctors along the way thinks I “could have been diagnosed”, if they were diagnosing Asperger’s Syndrome in the 1970’s.
I don’t feel like I really have anything to say, though.
Do you ever think about a segment of time and come to the conclusion that the segment of time seemed to have gone by very quickly, and yet in another way, very slowly? I feel that way sometimes about the 7 years that have gone by in which my family has had autism as part of our identity. I feel like I still know very little about autism, and yet I know a great deal more than I did then. What I did not know was how large the field of experience and understanding related to autism is: what I thought was a field (to use the same word a different way, which is endlessly amusing to some with autism, and endlessly irritating to others) is a prairie, far bigger than I ever imagined, and more diverse.
I know a lot about my kids. I understand Zach better than I used to, and am able to enter into life on his terms much more easily than when we started. I’ve always understood Josh much better – he and I are very much alike (and perhaps are on the same end of the spectrum, if we are there at all), and his reactions are often self-evident to me. However, this also means, increasingly as he gets older, that I am more frustrated with him when I see him doing less than he is capable of – especially if it is a way of failing that I, too, struggle with. I know this is common for parents of neuro-typical kids, and this is something we share.
What do I know about Autism, though? That’s less clear. I know Autism is real. I know Autism looks different in every person, but that after a while, you can recognize it pretty quickly. I know that Autism tends to dominate whatever relational space it inhabits, and it takes a lot of work for that not to be the case. I know that Autism requires the people who interact with it to be flexible. I know that people with Autism can be as smart, as funny, as kind, as athletic, as loving, as fragile, as human as anyone else.
And I know that Autism is not going away. So, while a day like World Autism Awareness Day is a quaint idea, if you live in America and aren’t aware of Autism by now, you’re probably every lawyer’s dream juror. It’s time to go past being aware of Autism, and on to figuring out how to integrate the people and families with Autism who are part of your social networks. They need it, and its likely that your life is going to be richer, if not neater and easier, for it.