Autism :: More Than Awareness, It’s Time to Accept and Appreciate

autism awareness - Boston Moms Blog

My journey raising a child with autism started seven years ago. No doubt about it, my child came into this world with autism. The first time I Googled “red flags of autism,” he was 8 months old. Of course, I was just exploring facts and had no idea what our future would hold. But here we are — my son is turning 8 this summer, and he is most certainly autistic.  

Over the years I have had mixed feelings about “autism awareness.” It has never sat quite right with me, and being a completely burned out mom of three kids, I’ve never had the energy or time to really think about what I want to say. But the past year has hit us hard at home and at school. Now that my son is getting older, his behavior and quirkiness are more obvious to others, including his peers and his younger sister. It is making me realize awareness is not enough.

What I need, as a parent, is autism acceptance and autism appreciation. Let’s be real. If you have taken the time to read this post, you are already aware of autism. Most likely you know a person with autism or know a parent who has a child with autism. So, with the awareness already accomplished, take that extra step and start accepting and appreciating.

My child is different. There are things he can do that your child cannot. Your child is different. She can do things my child cannot. I accept and appreciate that your kid can express his or her wants and needs. Can you accept and appreciate that my kid can build some pretty impressive stuff on Minecraft? See how easy that exchange was? Can we teach our children that everyone has their strengths? Can we teach our children to help their peers when they are struggling? Just this week I found out that on pancake day at school, my son had three classmates helping him cut his pancake. Every day he eats a yogurt at snack, and his classmates often help him open it if he gets frustrated. I am so grateful to these “helper kids” and their amazing parents who encourage them to help when they see a friend struggling.  

That is my goal as a parent of both a special needs child and two neurotypical children. I do not want my kids to merely be aware of differences, I want them accepting differences. I want my kids to be “thinkers” and “doers.” I want them taking action, not just observing.  

After all, awareness is a noun. It is a thing. Accepting is a verb. It is time to start doing.

So, I encourage you to put on your blue for World Autism Day! Put your kids in blue, too! Every April 2, when I see people wearing blue or tagging me in their social media photos, it feels awesome. But also, take the extra effort and extra time to educate yourself on what families like mine are experiencing and what they need.  

If you don’t know where to get started with teaching your own kids about autism, check out “The Autism Acceptance Book” by Ellen Sabin.

Or check out this 5-minute video and show it to your kids if you think they are an appropriate age.

And a big thank you to those parents who are already showing their children how to be helpful, inclusive, and kind. Your kids, the “helper kids” have literally brought me to tears with their kindness — our family is so grateful for their acceptance and appreciation of kids who are a little different, but not less.

Leah is a Massachusetts native who grew up in the MetroWest area. She met her husband in 2006 and they bonded over all things Boston. After moving to North Carolina for 4 years, they realized they had to move back to New England. (love that dirty water!) In 2011 they welcomed a son into their family. Then 2014, 1 week before having their daughter, their son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The last but not least little guy came in 2017. With three kids and special needs in their life, they rely on an amazing support system of friends and family. Leah is a stay at home mom, who is also growing a small business, and enjoying the independence and freedom it has given her. Loves: Great food (mostly made by her talented husband), playing with the kids, the beach, date nights, The Pats, The Sox, The B’s, new socks and bras, and American history, and movies. Can’t stand: Cotton balls, weeds, broken crayons, pollen, and vacuuming up Cheerios every half hour.