The [A] word

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately that (albeit trying to educate) put Autism in a box.

Autism cannot be conceptualised. It’s a force to be reckoned with and like any powerful force it doesn’t appear in one standardised form. It comes in the inability to take a different route home; repetition of words or actions; finding it hard to engage in casual conversation; hand movements.

Autism is something you need to accept. Realise that your child needs you early on rather than spending years in denial or consumed with anger and “Why us?”. Acceptance from others is something you cannot control. It will frustrate you and break you; but you need to get up and hold their hands proudly. Do not hide them away, they deserve to be allowed to live a full life even though it will inevitably put them in a position where they will be stared at, pointed at. As long as you are there, by their side, none of it matters. Remember that the children don’t realise they are being stared at, they don’t know people are pointing at them, it’s you and your own inhibitions. Don’t let that take away their walks in the park, their playtime, their eating out or going on holiday. Embrace their traits and make them visible to a world which doesn’t really fully understand Autism still.

Don’t apologise for who they are. When they are happy and running up and down, when they are trying to tell you something only you can understand, when they rearrange things in a shop, when they want to go on only one ride over and over again. But also, don’t make it an excuse when they misbehave, don’t use Autism to let them be aggressive, or to be rude to people around them. It doesn’t matter if you are in a public place, they need to know what is allowed and what is not. Don’t let them get away with throwing things or screaming if you can, remember that with Autism it’s all about routine, re-occurrence, do not set a precedent.

When Christos screams of gets mad at a restaurant or a supermarket we whisper the word ‘silence’, a hand gesture to make him aware that he needs to change the volume he is speaking in, he’ll still repeat what he is saying but in a whisper, which then enables us to take control of the situation – it takes time, but persistence is the key. He knows he cannot get up from the table, he cannot grab people to show them what he wants, he cannot throw his clothes on the floor or go to bed without brushing his teeth. Not all children can be taught etiquette though, especially with more severe cases it’s hard to even make eye contact, much less to react to social cues; but I can only comment on our experiences and hope that it helps you.

It all starts at home, if you raise them with restrictions, if you make them feel excluded from the world they will sense it; inadvertently or subconsciously, just because they don’t have a voice doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say.

Raise them with pride, show the world that Autism is something that can be tamed; we cannot defeat it yet but we can try our best. Be proud of their achievements – even though society will tell you they are small. Remember that every little change, every development and everything they achieve is because of you.

Teach others about Autism, let them learn from you. Don’t make it a word we have to whisper, don’t let it become an excuse.

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