Awareness isn’t enough



April 17 is Autism Awareness Day. I’m going to veer off my planned path for this week to talk about autism. Next week, we’ll return to talking about creating an abundant life.

Although we may not be that far off the path. What better way to create an abundant life than by spreading copious amounts of kindness and acceptance?

Every April, we discuss Autism Awareness. Everyone wears ribbons and sports cool icons on their social media pages. I’m going to step on a few toes here. I’m sorry, but awareness is not enough. We need to go beyond being aware that someone is different and accept their differences; celebrate their differences, even.

Autism is a spectrum disorder. It affects each individual differently. My grandson J was diagnosed with ASD at age three. Let me give you a peek into J’s world. Imagine being locked in a thick block of wavy glass. You can see out, but everything is off-kilter. The glass muffles everything you hear. You try to speak to those outside the glass, but your words come across garbled. Imagine the frustration of living that way every single day. Is it any wonder those on the spectrum have meltdowns?

I grew up being tested for a variety of ‘disorders’ because I didn’t think or react the way others my age did. The official conclusion? I’m just wired differently. It took time and the support of some very special people, but I learned to embrace those differences. To learn that being different didn’t make me less. Being different enabled me to excel in analytical fields like math and science and creative fields like writing and photography. Being different enabled me to use both sides of my brain.

Yes, let’s take April 17 and use it to promote Autism Awareness. But why don’t we step beyond awareness and embrace those that are different? Let’s make April 17 Autism Acceptance day. It’s time to celebrate our differences. Different, not less.

GLENDA THOMPSON, a columnist for the Pleasanton Express and is currently writing a series on finding your hidden talents. Glenda resides in Charlotte where she is hard at work on the second novel in a series about Texas Rangers with dark secrets. Her first novel, Broken Toys, is now available on Amazon.

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