Welcome to a new series, which uses the framework from the book “Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes you Knew“. I will be using the author’s chapter titles, and adding in my own stories and thoughts about what I know of Autism.
First, a disclaimer:
- I am in no ways any kind of expert on Autism.
- If you hear someone say they’re an expert on Autism…run away as fast as you can. Autism is such a new and growing phenomenon, and there is not enough information for anyone to be an expert right now.
- Every child with Autism is different. I can tell stories about the children I have come into contact with, but it is SO hard to generalize across the wide spectrum.
- This series is meant to increase awareness of these amazing children, and to help people who don’t deal with Autism on a daily basis a little bit of a better understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- If you want to hear more, please buy the book by clicking the link above! I think this is a very valuable book and it is a very interesting read, and that’s why I am using the author’s framework for sharing my own knowledge and experiences.
#1: I am first and foremost a CHILD
I have asthma. It’s controlled, but I have to take medication daily and I had to go to the hospital last year because of it. But my husband doesn’t talk about me saying, “Yeah, my asthmatic wife is working this weekend.” That would be bizarre! Asthma is something I deal with daily, and my life changes because of it, but it does not define me.
The same is true for a child with Autism, but society has no problems classifying a child as “Autistic”. You hear aunts and uncles saying, “Yes, my sister has an Autistic child”, or “I saw an Autistic kid at the food store today”. When we use language like this, people only see the “A-word” label. Yes, they have Autism. Yes, Autism is a big part of this child’s life. But this is not what defines them as a person.
I learned to use “person first language” in college. It’s just a simple way to start changing your language to realize that these kids are more than their label. I’ll challenge you to do this if you’re not doing it already. When you’re talking about your nephew, don’t call him the Autistic nephew. Call him your nephew who has Autism. Or, if it’s not necessary to the conversation – don’t mention that he has Autism at all! We all have images that come to our mind of what a child with Autism looks like, and it could look nothing like your nephew, since all of these children are so unique.
I am priveleged to know CHILDREN who:
are so bright
truly want to do the right thing
are ingenious builders
love their siblings
sing joyfully, but off-tune
are yellow belts in karate
love video games
learn in many different ways
have the sweetese smiles I’ve ever seen
happen to have Autism.
I am sure you could label your children with many things on that list. I could add thousands more! The point is, Autism is just a part of who they are.
If you have questions, please leave a comment! This is part 1 in a 10 part series…we have plenty of time to answer questions. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll do some homework and work on finding a good answer for you!
Please visit Autism Speaks for some amazing resources to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorders.