April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, which is wonderful. I really do LOVE that there’s a day dedicated to bringing awareness to autism. I do however think it would be even more awesome if the day were changed to “World Hang Out With Someone With Autism Day” (maybe that’s a little wordy, but you get the picture, right?). I agree that awareness is necessary – without it, people are clueless about the challenges of autism and what the families go through on a daily basis. But honestly, awareness isn’t enough to bring about change. We don’t need to just be aware that someone has autism; we need to step out of our comfort zones on this day set aside for people on the autism spectrum and actually do something for them.
I have a couple of suggestions:
Invite someone with autism out for ice cream or pizza (or whatever their favorite food is – most likely they have major sensory issues if they’re on the spectrum).
Offer to stay with a child with autism so the parents can go out for dinner.
Go hang out with someone on the autism spectrum and do whatever it is that they like to do – most likely there will be something very specific.
Those are just a couple of suggestions…I’m sure you can add some great ones to that list.
Listen, I don’t want to sound ungrateful for World Autism Awareness Day – I really am so thankful. I love seeing all of the famous places lit up blue in honor of those with autism. I love that people put on blue shirts and add a blue border to their Facebook profile pic. But guess what, on April 3, the families affected by autism are still dealing with autism. That one day set aside to bring awareness doesn’t change that. BUT, what can help those families is if change does occur. And that change starts within your family. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face…sit your children down. Have a conversation about autism. Google it. Wikipedia it. Tell your kids that people with autism are different, but that does NOT make them less. It’s not okay to exclude them. It’s not okay to watch them sit alone at the lunch table day after day after day after day. It’s not okay to watch them playing alone in the dirt day after day after day. It’s not okay to leave them off of your birthday party list. You may think that those kids don’t notice, but trust me, they do. Lots of people on the autism spectrum want friends, but they just don’t have the social skills to do it.
We have experienced much heartache over the years watching our son try to navigate the social world and make/keep friends…man, it hurts – especially because it’s none of his own doing. He has a developmental disability. This past year, our prayers have been answered and he has a best friend. Literally, my eyes started tearing up when I just wrote that sentence. I recently messaged the mom and this is what I said:
“You have NO IDEA how much your family has blessed Presley, and our family, this year. No idea. We have prayed for 5 years for a friend for Presley…5 years! Until y’all invited him for a sleepover, it had been years since he had been to someone’s house. The way y’all have accepted him, included him, bragged on him and loved him…seriously brings us to tears. We are so grateful for this friendship and for your son and family. Even if for some reason the friendship changes in the future, we are so thankful for what it has been to Presley and to us. Thank you.”
“Girl, I don’t even know what to say!!! That’s so hard for me to wrap my head around! He is such a great kid, really!!! Funny, smart, kind, honest, caring, I could go on and on. I love his and _______’s (not gonna use his name here) friendship. The best way I can describe it is, it’s just EASY and easy friendships are the best friendships!!! P is just as much of a blessing to _______. P just lets him be him and I love that.”
Y’all. Those words are so good for my soul. And I want to tell you that taking the time to hang out with someone on the spectrum will be a huge blessing to you. People with autism may be a little different, or they may be a LOT different, but they are amazing. They have such value. And they can be such a blessing in your life and in the life of your family. Trust me.
So on April 2, put on that blue shirt, post pics on FB or Instagram or SnapChat, and bring awareness to autism. But don’t stop there – I’m going to challenge you to take it a step further…DO SOMETHING. I promise you won’t regret it.
#autism #worldautismawarenessday #autismspeaks #aspergers