For me, this resonates a lot more than Autism Awareness Month. I’m already very much aware of autism. My oldest has Autism and I’ve been living and breathing autism awareness for quite some time now. So have my husband, his little brother, aunt, uncle, grandparents, our entire extended family, and our friends.
Awareness months are important. They remind us to take action. Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October reminds us to schedule mammograms; in February, American Heart Month reminds us to stop eating so much salt and maybe go for a run instead, but I’m not sure I need my community to take personal action, as much as I’d like people to just accept my son the way he is.
Perhaps there isn’t much difference between asking for awareness versus asking for acceptance; both are about education, really. But acceptance requires a very small shift in thought.
Why should you talk to your kids about autism? Because statistically speaking, your child knows at least one kid with autism and interacts with him or her on a daily basis. Because the more we talk to our kids about accepting and understanding differences, the less likely they are to bully other kids. Because when you talk to your kids about being accepting of the “quirky” kids in their class, you’re also teaching them to be accepting of other kinds of differences: skin colors, accents, clothing brands, religious beliefs, music preferences.
Whether you talk to your kids about Autism Acceptance or Autism Awareness , I really don’t care. Either way, please take that extra step and mention not just how people with autism are different from people without it: talk about how they’re the same, too.
To get you started, here are ten things I wish everyone’s kids knew about autism:
You can't tell that someone has autism by looking at them.
Everybody's brain works differently.
Why are they doing that?
Lots of people talk with their hands.
Sometimes, kids with autism have trouble with facial expressions.
What are you a fan of?
Everyone knows someone who seems "obsessed" with their favorite sports team, for example. You don't have to be autistic to be really into Harry Potter, Star Wars, or a favorite sports team. Sometimes kids with autism will forget to talk about other things besides their favorite topic. It's okay to say, "can we talk about something else now?"
Explain the rules!
Lots of adults have autism, too.
Individuals with autism are individuals.
If you met a kid with red hair who really likes Transformers, you wouldn't expect every person with red hair to really like Transformers. It's the same thing with autism. Not every autistic person likes the same stuff, is good at the same things, or has a hard time with the same things. They're individuals just like you're an individual.