This time last year, I was pretending that an autism label wouldn’t make any difference at all. Little Person with autism label was the same Little Person as she was before the label, right? Yes, and no.
Because her diagnosis means that I have had to become more autism aware – in terms of my behaviour and the behaviour of people that Little Person comes in contact with. Because somehow, in my head, autism awareness means being sensitive enough to be able to change your behaviour so that the person with autism has a chance to actually engage with every day life instead of hiding from it.
It means knowing that when you said you will do something, you must do it.
It means taking the time to talk about how things will be the same and how they will be different.
It means ice cream as a starter.
It means letting people think I am a bad parent.
Knowing that sometimes the words disappear and that’s okay.
It means boisterous cuddles in the middle of the supermarket.
And whispering “Thank you for being brave.”
It means phoning up the company and asking for help.
It means meetings with people who think you are making it up.
No birthday parties, no after school chats, and no regrets.
It’s knowing that as hard as it is for me, it is harder for her and it’s my job to make it easier.
Autism awareness means knowing she’s not joking when she asks “What is funny?”
It means knowing that I will never really know, and somehow that’s okay.
I am learning every day what it means to be autism aware, and I hope you will too.
There’s a saying that when you’ve met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism. Sometimes, autism doesn’t look like you think it should, and sometimes it does. And sometimes, those caring for people with autism are so worn down, and so accustomed to being judged, that they don’t ask for help. Sometimes being autism aware means helping the carers take care of themselves.
Chances are you know someone affected by autism.
Chances are, you can be part of being autism aware.