Autism awareness month is almost upon us. The inevitable posts encouraging people to light it up blue, gold, multi – colored and more have become plentiful. In my opinion, a color does not signify autism acceptance. Without action attached to the colored puzzle piece or ribbon it is merely a color.
The definition of the word awareness is defined as “Awareness is the ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, thoughts, emotions, or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of something.” (Wikipedia encyclopedia)
Lighting it up blue, gold, multicolored, or green with zigzag imprints for that matter is not indicative of awareness. Awareness is merely the beginning of a process towards understanding. Individuals may witness the empire state building lit up blue and associate it with the word autism. However without understanding this will be the extent of their knowledge. They will gaze up at the blue light bulbs in awe. Individuals will than go out their business forgetting about autism awareness. Meanwhile, autistic parents and children will live with autism 24 -7.
For them autism awareness is everyday of the year. Autistic children will struggle to live with their challenges and attempt to gain new skills that will help them thrive. Parents of autistic children will continue to coach, cheer lead and support their kids day in and day out. For these parents awareness is sleep deprived nights caring for their children who awaken in the middle of the night screaming, stimming, occasionally harming themselves through their behaviors and more.
Awareness is not about a business creating an autism awareness sale for their wares in the same fashion that stores have fourth of July sales with the intent of selling merchandise yet forgetting the meaning of independence day. Sadly, I have witnessed this many times. “In honor of autism awareness check out our sale” If the merchandiser was honoring autism awareness in their sale they would be offering a portion of their sales to an autism fund, family or the like.
Awareness is developed through knowledge. Knowledge is acquired through education. Knowledge leads to understanding of autism. Understanding of the autism leads to acceptance. Only through acceptance can full awareness be developed. Rather than focusing on what color we should support. Focus on the goal. Acceptance, tolerance, understanding, awareness, and most of all ACTION. After all, isn’t the varied colors of a rainbow what gives it the majestic beauty it possesses. If a rainbow was one color, it would not be a rainbow. Isn’t the autism spectrum quite similar. Hence the reason it is called a spectrum. Like the colors of a rainbow, autistic individuals come in all shapes and sizes.
This ideal is present in society at large as well. The world is a melting pot of colors, nationalities, creeds and belief systems. In order to live harmoniously side by side we look beyond the colors and nationalities of our wonderful world in order to live harmoniously. Those who don’t unfortunately exist in a narrow-minded world indeed.
Move beyond the colors. They are merely symbols. Symbols that do not define a person. It is the actions of society at large that define us not colors. Obliterate the them and us mode of thinking and change that to WE. We argue due to our different modes of thinking and belief systems. Surprisingly, when we dig below the surface it becomes self-evident that when we combine those differences as a team and embrace our varied mind – set we make larger contributions to the ultimate goal. That goal is to open up societies eyes regarding the autism spectrum.
Rather than focusing on what color to follow. Harness that energy in a more productive manner. Make it your goal to step out of your box and out of your comfort zone today and everyday, not merely in April. Offer to watch a sleep deprived autism parents child while they take a nap or spend time with their spouse or other children. Cook a meal for the family of a child with autism. For a parent with a child that has autism who has dealt with a bolting child, items thrown all over the house , or dealt with several meltdowns and more. Your effort will be appreciated. I can confirm this statement as I am the parent of an adult on the spectrum. Spend the day volunteering with autistic individuals or families and get to know them. Assist an adult with autism who cannot drive by offering them a lift in your car. Volunteer to tutor young adults in life skills and academics. These are merely a few things that can increase awareness.
So wear any color or logo that you wish but remember the reason behind autism awareness month and do not lose sight of that in an effort to become a sheep following a herd. Long live the prism of the rainbow.
Written from the heart of Mari Nosal M.Ed.
I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9