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21 and Atypical: Planet Blue💙

It’s autism awareness month and you may notice that a lot of the posts are blue. You may also scroll past or see numerous autism-friendly events and educational activities which will be taking place all month, everywhere in the world, in order to increase understanding, acceptance and further support people with autism.

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But why blue for autism? While there’s no definitive answer I think the reasoning is found in the meaning of Blue.

Blue is a colour found in nature such as the pale blue of a daytime sky or the rich dark blue of a deep ocean. It is for this reason that it is described as calm and serene. Blue seeks peace and tranquillity and although life with autism is not calm, Christos and Stephanos feel safe in their own space and surrounded by people that adore them. Stephanos’ godsister, Joanna, remember their days in primary school when Stephanos used to wait for her to pick him up from class for break and hold her hand when they had to play volleyball or basketball at gym. Aren’t you most at peace when you feel safe?

Blue is also a cool colour which can sometimes seem icy, distant or even cold. Before the diagnosis, the speech therapy and before we adjust to this new world of living with autism it can sometimes seem as though they are distant or not interested. When they don’t respond to their name, when they wiggle themselves out of a hug, when they wipe away a kiss, it may seem like a loss but Christos is an affectionate man who intimacy. He laughs with us, eats with us and cries when we are sad. He helps us when we are in pain and he surprises us with hand holding or a kiss. Stephanos, is more social in general and he allows kids to approach and touch him, to hold his hand, to guide him and even to kiss his cheek. He responds and seeks affection from his family while also showing them he loves them daily. The myth about people on the spectrum being unapproachable is one we aim to dispel every day. Don’t you find that you appreciate your alone-time as well?

42816046_319009918650137_5237303023620849664_nBlue is idealistic, it explores and pushed the boundaries of self-expression; in fact, it is the most used colour in business and 53% of country flags incorporate some shade of blue. Christos and Stephanos push limits in communication without words. They are imaginative and creative in their journeys. Stephanos dances, sings, plays music and has his own drawing studio. At school his talents are further cultivated by creating through woodwork and using the hot glue gun to complete his own work. His abilities are not defined by his speech or his ways of stimming and he reminds everyone around him to not underestimate his neurodiversity.

Blue can be conservative and predictable, a safe and secure colour; a traditional colour if you like. Christos used to be notorious for not liking change. Over the years we have seen such massive changes in him in terms of eating habits or changing his daily schedule last minute. He has become open-minded and has broken out of the shell the word ‘autism’ imposed on him. He is safe in his predictability and unpredictable in his emotional intelligence. Change may be difficult for Blue but how many of you are completely comfortable with frequent changes?

Blue also represents freedom. Perhaps freedom of mind, freedom to be whomever they want to be. Free from the restraints and pressures of social ‘norms’, liberated from being confined in one box and ‘fitting in’.

So, it’s autism awareness month and if you are reading this you’ve taken one step to contributing in spreading awareness. Other things you can do are:

Tell someone it’s autism awareness month.

Wear blue; a t shirt, accessory, or even blue jeans with the intention of it being for autism!

Image result for autism awareness puzzle ribbonDisplay the puzzle: The Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is the most recognised symbol of the autism community in the world. Wear the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon – as a pin on your shirt, a magnet on your car, a badge on your blog, or even your Facebook profile picture. The puzzle pattern reflects the complexity of the autism spectrum. The different colours and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition. 

Find out what’s happening near you. Many Autism 15032849_10154114892521238_68260037536364233_nSociety local affiliates hold special events in their communities throughout the month of April.

Watch a movie or documentary about autism. Louis Theroux’s documentary “Extreme Love Autism”, Oscar nominated “Life, Animated”, “Autism in Love” on Netflix, “Girls with Autism” on ITV are just a handful of recent depictions of autism.  You can also read about Autism, and it doesn’t have to be a journal, or research. It can be fiction, like “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon, “House Rules” by Jodi Picoult or “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend” by Matthew Dicks.

Donate to your local charity or ours Autism Support Famagusta .

Read #21andAtypical, share your story and #StandUpForAutism .

By embracing the puzzle piece, not the missing puzzle piece, we embrace the piece of our world that is autism. Tomorrow, the world will follow a tradition pioneered by Autism Speaks and Light It Up Blue. And while lighting a blue light doesn’t help parents struggling to balance a job, a family and autism, it raises awareness. Awareness will come from people who notice the different monuments/buildings worldwide going blue, a window in a quiet street displaying a puzzle ribbon, a local business fundraising for autism and they will ask questions about it. They might tell others, or go home and read about it. They may recognise it next time they see it and not stare, they might pass down the knowledge to younger generations.

If we could go into every house and help every family struggling with autism, we would. Instead, we will wear blue and we will tell people to wear blue. We will tell them why and we will talk about autism until all the pieces fit, until everyone understands.

From the Empire State Building in New York, Niagara Falls, the London Eye, Sidney Opera House, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Petra in Jordan, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, the Taj Mahal in India, the Table Mountain in South Africa, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, the Canton Tower in China, and the Great Buddha at Hyogo, people all over the world will Light it Up Blue to honour World Autism Awareness Day tomorrow. Will you?

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Why Blue?

I always did wonder why blue for Autism? And here’s the answer:417274_10150752439575030_419644176_n

Blue represents trust, honesty and loyalty. It is sincere, reserved and quiet, it hates confrontation, likes to do things in its own way, it has a need for order and direction in its life, including its living and work spaces.- remind you of anyone yet?

This is a colour that seeks peace and tranquillity above everything else, promoting both physical and mental relaxation. It reduces stress, creating a sense of calmness, relaxation and order – and although we may not feel that as carers, our kids definitely feel safe, calm and relaxed in their own space. Blue represents freedom. Perhaps freedom from the daily hassles of life – money, jobs, paying the bills etc.

It is idealistic, improving self-expression – in their need to find more than words to express themselves – and their ability to communicate their needs and wants. It inspires higher ideals – for us. They inspire us to push through and try for more. They inspire us to take chances and be strong in taking new paths. They are our inspiration for innovation. Chris has definitely been my inspiration; as I’ve mentioned before.

Blue’s wisdom comes from its higher level of intelligence, a spiritual perspective. Cannot stress this enough – autism is a spectrum condition, which means that, all people with autism share certain difficulties but their position on the spectrum will affect them in different ways. Some are able to live fully or relatively independent lives (high-functioning autism), like people who have never been diagnosed, but others will have learning disabilities, will not be able to communicate and will need a lifetime of specialist support. Some may excel in academic subjects; for example Chris is a Math genius, give him any equation, he knows it. Others may excel in arts, crafts and technical subjects.

Blue builds strong, trusting relationships. No argument there. The people who surround Chris are crazy about him, there is nothing in the world we wouldn’t do for him. He has also helped us as a family work on our relationships with each other, he brought us closer, made our bond stronger.

Blue is conservative and predictable, a safe and secure colour.  Our kids don’t like change, even though we try day and night to keep them open-minded and to draw them out of their shells. They are safe, kind and compassionate people who will love you forever, and even though they don’t show you most of the time when they do its indescribable. Change is difficult for blue. They lock themselves in a routine that they are happy to carry on forever; and then we come along. Blue is inflexible and when faced with a new or different idea, it considers it, analyses it, thinks it over slowly and then tries to make it fit its own acceptable version of reality. Example that pops to mind – and I’m sure my family will agree – is food. Like I mentioned in previous posts, food is paramount in our household. “He stares as we bring over the food, picks up the plate, smells it and then if we’re lucky takes a tiny bite; and by tiny I mean that ants would probably carry a bigger bit than the amount he is willing to try. Then comes the silence – we hold our breath, fists clenching, heart racing all waiting to see if he approves of the dish. It all sounds a tad bit dramatic but imagine going through that every day, every meal, worrying about every restaurant, every holiday – we’ve become immune to it now. In fact we find it strange when kids just start eating their food without an investigation.”

They are not threatening, there’s no reason to be alarmed unless you don’t understand them. That’s what this month is about, so take advantage of it. You know autistic people, and if you don’t you will meet them. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined. Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the world.

Blue is the colour of truth – and what is more truthful than the pure nature of our kids?