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Today, April 2, is Autism Awareness Day, and None More Aware than I

jaron blue
John Riggs

They reserve the month of April as Autism Awareness Month, but make April 2 Autism Awareness Day. None is much more aware than I am, as two of my three children have been diagnosed with autism.

Before I had children of my own with autism, I didn’t have a clue what it was or what it meant. It was just a word I’d heard before that vaguely meant several things like “developmentally delayed” and “not good with some subjects, but genius in others” and “socially awkward and seems distant, but is just as much of a human as anyone else.” It took having my own kids to realize how true many of those were.

Unlike most other conditions, there is no one notion — everyone is different. My son, for instance, didn’t speak much until a couple of years ago when he started preschool. Now he is able to ask for something he wants. He’ll probably never tell me the day is beautiful or ask how my weekend went, but he can use communication more as a tool to get what he needs. I’m OK with that.

It’s also not a disease, so there is no cure. All we can do is educate and make others aware that, just because you see a kid running around a waiting room or someone not using their “inside voice,” it may not be because of bad parenting. Consider that next time the situation happens around you.

My son has autism, but that’s not what defines him. He’s still just as much of an active first-grader as anyone else. He loves playing, he loves ice cream, he sneaks snacks into his room when I’m not looking — he’s just your typical 7-year-old. He just happens to have autism, too.

If your child shows signs of autism, the worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand. For your child’s sake, take them to Children’s Village and look into it. The help we’ve received there has been a godsend. There’s even support for the parents of like children, which is very important to keep your sanity. I promise, you’re not alone.

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