Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Happy World Autism Awareness Day

Unless you live under a rock you have probably seen somewhere that today is World Autism Awareness Day, and April is Autism Awareness Month.  You have probably seen some of the statistics:

2002  1 in 150 children
2004  1 in 125 children
2006  1 in 110 children
2008  1 in 88 children

Currently 1 in 54 boys is diagnosed with autism.  
1 in 54.  

You've got the people out there who say it is now a broader diagnosis, and others who don't buy that line.  You've got the people out there who swear it's caused by vaccinations, "leaky gut", the environment, genetics, or having super smart parents (I like to think it's the super smart parents because that means I'm super smart--yay me).  Most people have an opinion on the best intervention, and others think no intervention is needed at all.  You've got some parents yelling and screaming over all sorts of things (acceptance, education, insurance, various interventions), you've got other parents who are curled up in a ball in the corner, unable to accept the impact of an autism diagnosis.  You have parents who want their kids labeled, and others who refuse to utter the word autism as if it's a stigma that will socially isolate their child from all of the world.  You have people who think autistic kids are just unruly kids who need a good spanking time out, and other who think that because they're autistic they shouldn't be disciplined at all.

And then you have me.  :)  On the one hand I applaud those people who have strong opinions, but on the other hand, people within the "autism community" can be just as closed minded (perhaps even more so) than the ignorant people on the outside looking in.  Here's the thing--I really don't care.  Just like you, I have my own opinions (that I generally keep to myself), but at the end of the day, guess what?  My son is still autistic.  At the end of the day we STILL don't know what causes autism, we STILL don't have a "cure", we STILL don't understand the complex workings of the human brain.  In the midst of all of the unknowns about autism, there are a few things I know, and life lessons I have learned along the way. 

1.  I don't need to know WHY my guy is 1 in 54.  To me it doesn't matter.  He's mine. 

2.  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  Thank you Kelly Clarkson for singing about it because now I have a tune to remind me!

3.  I'm popular--seriously popular in my town.  If there was a mother-of-an-autistic-child popularity contest where I live.  I would win.  No joke.

4.  Perspective is imperative--hey that's pretty catchy.  It could ALWAYS be worse.  ALWAYS.  That being said, I'm not gonna lie, the amount of sympathy and admiration I get because of the stupid things Aaron does feels really, really good!

5.  Thick skin is handy. 99% of the time I really don't care what people think about me, my parenting or my kid (I'm not perfect--sshhh don't tell my kids or husband that).  Walk a mile (or 1/10th of a mile for that matter--you'll give him right back) in my shoes, and then we'll talk.  It's unfair to expect ignorant people to know what it's like.  You can't fix stupid.

6.  Just because I had hopes and dreams for my kid that will most likely never come true doesn't mean that if he were "typically developing" (let's be P.C. here) he would have those same dreams.  Would you really feel like it was the end of the world if one of your "typical" kids decided to not get married and have kids?  (And if you would feel like it was the end of the world, might I suggest you get help for your control issues). It's okay to grieve those things that you feel like you've "lost".  I've done my share of grieving, and every once in awhile something happens and that sadness pops up.  There are plenty of days when autism sucks.  It does.  I would be a liar if I told you that it doesn't hurt to see your friends' kids who are the same age meet milestones that you will probably never see.  BUT, if I focus on all the things Aaron can't do, I'll miss out on all of the things he CAN do.

7.  I've had opportunities and experiences that I never would have had if it weren't for autism.  I have made new friends and helped complete strangers.  Heck, I've been on the news, spoken to graduate students at a university, and given a speech in front of hundreds of really rich people who were donating to a good cause.  I told you, I'm popular (and humble).

8.  I don't hang my hat on what the "experts" say.  My favorite is: if they aren't talking by the time they're 5, well, you're outta luck.  Guess what?  Aaron was 10.  Those experts can shove it....

9.  I get to celebrate all kinds of things that other people take for granted.  I will never forget when I was so excited that Aaron played in the toilet because that meant he was aware of something in his environment.  Seriously, I was elated.  Although it got old quick.

10.  I have a firm belief in God's divine wisdom, and He clearly believed that I was the best mother for Aaron.  I'm not sure why He's that crazy, and you had better believe that one day I will ask Him that question!  God won't give you more than you can handle--I just wish He didn't trust me so much.  Another one of my favorite quotes.  It's sitting on my piano.

11.  I've learned a new language that is full of acronyms.  I don't know how many I am up to, but it's a lot.  It's fun to throw them around so I sound smarter than I actually am.

12.  Laughter truly is the best medicine.  In the trials of autism with so much that is out of control, I have control of my attitude.  I have options: curl up in the corner (guilty), get super mad at some of the ridiculous things that Aaron does (guilty), or take it with a grain of salt and choose to see the funny side of it.  Most of the time I choose the last one.

And finally,

13.  Red wine and Banana Taffy help.  (Although I don't recommend them at the same time--it's nasty).

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