Friday, March 20, 2015
Skip Lighting It Up Blue - Please Do This Instead
For a number of years I have asked everyone I know to participate in Light It Up Blue each April, the world wide autism awareness event promoted by Autism Speaks. This year, and every year after, I'm asking you to SKIP THE BLUE. Let me explain why we are no longer as a family participating in this campaign and instead asking you all to do something that will truly make a difference instead.
Over the past year, as Christopher has inched closer to adulthood and Ryan approached puberty, I realized that Autism Speaks does not represent what THEY need and desire in their lives, now or going forward. We have always been open about their autism diagnosis and treated it as just another part of them and their unique, wonderful selves. They don't need to be cured, they don't need an organization that speaks for them instead of listening TO THEM. I am so far past caring what caused their neurological differences that each time I see a new article tossing out another cause of autism I want to scream.
And I am over autism awareness. With the amount of news stories, television shows and movies about autism and the people with autism you would have to be a citizen of a third world country or live under a rock to NOT be aware of autism. And here's the kicker - in the nearly seven years since Christopher's diagnosis I can assure you awareness hasn't been a big issue. ACCEPTANCE, on the other hand, is the never ending battle. My awesome, smart, loving boys don't need you to wear blue one day a year and be aware autism exists. What they need is for you to see and treat them as individuals with goals, dreams, feelings and desires who sometimes need help navigating their way in the world. What they need is for you to LISTEN to them, to treat them with dignity and respect and ACCEPT them just as they are, differences and all.
Does this mean you must ignore their over the top volume when they are talking with you? No. Does it mean you give in to their every whim and want? No. Does it mean you do not expect them to treat YOU with respect and understanding? NO. What acceptance means is that you value them as the unique individuals they are and realize what makes them different doesn't negate their worth as a person or to society as a whole.
Instead of donning your blue and changing your light bulbs for a day to show you are aware, I'm asking you to do something that will make an impact every day. I'm asking you to take some time and honestly think about how you treat the people you encounter who are not like you. I'm asking that you take a few minutes and really asses your actions and behaviors towards people on the autism spectrum. Do you LISTEN to them when they speak, whether with words, assistive technology, their hands or their actions/behavior? Do you undermine their value by presuming they are incompetent and have nothing to offer to you and society? Do you mock and snicker at the person you see stimming? Do you let your children and friends mock and snicker at them or do you use that opportunity to promote acceptance of differences, no matter what they are?
So, skip the blue this and every year. Instead do something that shows the world you are more than aware, show the world your autism acceptance.