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World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) is on April 2, 2016
Hi everyone, I am a mum to 3 wonderful boys, 11, 9 and 8 years old. 2nd April has great significance for me and my family for the last several years. This is because it is World Autism Awareness Day and I have two boys on the autism spectrum and one boy with Global Developmental Delay who has several sensory issues, similar to those with autism spectrum disorder.
For me, it is a day to celebrate my children s uniqueness and let the world know what autism is. It is an opportunity for me to share with others how autism affects people, how others can understand my children and others with ASD better, and most importantly how others can show their acceptance for all people with disabilities and special needs. It is my opportunity to make the world a better place, a more inclusive, safer and respectful place for my children to grow up in.
For anyone who has been touched by Autism in any manner or degree, be it personally or through a relation, friend or even an acquaintance, you will know how drastically it can change lives. Well, what you may not know is how drastically it can change people s life for the better and not necessarily for the worse! Every parent should watch out for the early signs of autism.
Autism is the best thing to happen to my family
I do believe autism has touched my life quite severely, what with my oldest being severe on the spectrum, non-verbal and profoundly deaf, my youngest being high functioning with all the anxiety, social awkwardness and emotional rollercoasters to deal with, and my middle one facing a myriad of sensory issues that bring the world crashing around him within seconds. However, I do believe that autism has touched my life very positively and brought out the very best in me and my children as we grow stronger each day facing challenges, fighting our own little battles, persevering with determination to be heard and understood by the world around us.
Standing up for my children and demanding that they be respected by society, that they have an equal right to good quality education, upholding their right to belong and be included in society has been quite a struggle at times, but it has also given me a glimpse of what my children must feel like when they are not being heard, and how frustrating it gets when no one understands them. I now have a deeper understanding of the frustrations they face daily and I respect them and love them so much more each day. I celebrate their success and achievements, both big and small with great joy and pride, and this has taught me how important it is to appreciate the smaller things in life.
We need better awareness about autism
While I have had to learn a lot about autism to support my children and help them face their challenges, they have taught me a lot about life and how to find purpose, joy and positivity in life! This is why I celebrate World Autism Awareness Day each year on 2nd April and help raise awareness about it so other children with ASD may find acceptance from society and the wider world out there. Therapies go a long way in treating an autistic child.
Here, in New Zealand, my children live a good life thanks to the support and love of people surrounding us. They go to mainstream schools, attend after-school activities such as art class, swim class, go for movies, celebrate special occasions with dinner outings etc. We have dreams for our children that we work towards and we encourage our children to do what they like and enjoy, rather than what is most convenient for us. None of this is easy, and it all takes a lot of planning and support for me to organize well in advance. At times, it even requires a battle or two to break down the barriers and open the doors. But I know my children deserve it all! They deserve all the opportunities to learn and grow no matter how differently they learn or how slowly they grow. They deserve to celebrate even if our celebrations might be noisier than most. They deserve to enjoy what they are doing irrespective of how skilled or unskilled they may be at the task. And they deserve to go out in public no matter how good or poor their manners and social etiquette may be!
It saddens me to think how many families out there with a child on the spectrum do not go out with their child because they are apprehensive of a meltdown or the inappropriate noises and behaviours in public which results in cruel comments, judgemental stares and hurtful whispers that follow around. The reality is I have all these fears too, I just pretend to be bold and brave and step out with my handsome dudes no matter what! And when my fears do come true, I use the opportunity to educate the ignorant individuals about autism with a few brief facts and information about why my son behaves in a certain way. Most respond with an enlightened Oh! and I believe I am changing the world one person at a time by doing this.
I also believe the world needs to be a nicer place so all parents can take their children out without fear of being rejected. Furthermore, I believe parents need to be braver and step out with their children with ASD to teach the ignorant world around them how to be a kinder place, more compassionate and inclusive to all.If there is one thing I could wish for it would be for the world to be a more accepting place where diversity in any form or shape is embraced and respected.
So this year on World Autism Awareness Day I have done my bit to raise awareness by running a bake-sale and donating funds to Autism NZ, bombarding my friends on social media with all sorts of Autism facts and information on acceptance and inclusion, and writing this article for you to read. If you are a parent of a child with autism I hope you grow stronger and braver to overcome all the challenges that come your way each day and let the world see your children for who they are and all their strengths. If you have never been touched by autism or do not know much about autism, please try and educate yourself about autism and remember to show understanding, acceptance and compassion when you see a child with autism having a meltdown or behaving in a manner that does not quite make sense to you.
Accept, Love and Respect!
The author is a mother to three boys, two of whom are autistic and one suffers from GDD. She actively works towards spreading awareness about autism and why we need to show better acceptance and care towards people with special needs -- one smile, one kind gesture at a time. She is from India and lives in New Zealand.
Image source: Author
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