Well, I was going to write and publish Part 2 of Intellectualism vs Emotion this week, but then I realized that it’s now Autism Awareness Month. Several years ago, I decided that this blog was going to have a specific theme, and if you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you’re well aware that that theme is autism.
Now it’s National Autism Awareness Month. More often than usual, you’re seeing the color blue around. The White House was lit in a solid blue just the other night to acknowledge this month. The employees in the County Sheriff’s office in Johnson County, Kansas is acknowledging the month by wearing blue Autism Speaks bands which they received as donations. Today, the Newton Learning Center will be celebrating the month with their fifth annual Reno Aces Night. Tenth grader, Briana Ward, a young teen on the autism spectrum, will be throwing out the first pitch in the game. I think it’s great that autism has its own month in the year to really be acknowledged and respected. This of course, doesn’t mean that autism and how it affects people should be ignored for the remaining eleven months in the year, but seeing as how the autism spectrum gets its own month to be noticed is a step in the right direction.
Given it’s National Autism Awareness Month, different news outlets and people have published tips for how to understand autism. One in particular I’ve found is from Julia Hood from the Pingree Autism Center of Learning. Her tips are as follows:
- Recognize that you cannot always tell if a child has autism – or other disabilities – just by looking at them. (My own note: this is especially true for individuals who are high-functioning).
- Don’t judge others by their child’s behavior. It is important to be understanding that there could be more going on than just what appears.
- If a family member or friend has a child with autism, offer to help them. Ask, “Is there something I can do to help you?” (My own note: This is especially helpful for school or college students on the spectrum. We need to be willing to accommodate).
- Educate yourself about autism and other disabilities, especially “invisible disabilities”.
- If you do know a family with a child who has autism, find out what their interests are prior to scheduling an activity. Also, find out if there are certain things that are ‘triggers’ and lead to disruptive behavior.
This year, upon learning that National Autism Awareness Month was upon us again, it makes me think about the people on the spectrum in my life. I think about my middle brother, my girlfriend, and a few friends of mine who are on the spectrum. I think about how diverse they actually are when it comes to their place on the spectrum. That’s why autism is referred to as a ‘spectrum’ to begin with. All people on the spectrum may have a few traits in common, but all of them also have vastly different traits as well. That’s why when you meet one person who has autism, you’ve met only one person on the spectrum, not all. It’s one of the ways that autism is unique. If there is one message that I want to send to people for National Autism Awareness Month this year, it’s this: be careful to not lump all autistic people in the same group. Understand that all autistic people have their own unique places on the spectrum, which makes them different. Don’t let this discourage you when it comes to learning about them or trying to understand them. Research is key, but you can also ask autistic people questions. A lot of people on the spectrum who have been diagnosed are willing to answer any questions you might have, and even if it’s difficult for them to explain certain things, sometimes all it takes is an observant eye to recognize certain behaviors, habits, and patterns.
So in conclusion, I encourage you this month to take some time to learn about autism, and how you can make people on the spectrum feel more welcome in this world.