Last week (April 2nd) was Autism Awareness Day. I’m a mother of two kids with autism, and I wasn’t aware of this. LOL.
These “awareness days” are so much BS, in my opinion. They do absolutely nothing that I know of to actually help people living with conditions like autism.
All they do is make guilty people feel like they’re doing something (wearing a pretty ribbon? How is that supposed to help?), and maybe make governments look like they’re taking action too (when they’re not).
Soooo…here’s my list of ideas on:
– how to treat people with autism,
– what to do when you encounter people with autism, and
– how to treat that kid in your child’s class who has autism.
- Treat them with respect and decency. It’s a no-brainer. They’re human. Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated.
- Don’t fricking STARE. Yes, they have autism. That doesn’t mean they want to be stared at. If they’re behaving oddly they almost certainly can’t help it. They also almost certainly don’t want to be treated like a freak show.
- Be inclusive. So there’s a kid in your child’s class with autism. You know, it wouldn’t hurt to invite them over to play some time. Or maybe invite them to your child’s birthday party. You may even be the first person ever to show them that kindness. Think about it: That child may never have been invited to a birthday party. You could change their world with one simple gesture.
- Be friendly. Say hello. Smile. Don’t do it all the time but just be as friendly as you would be to anyone else you know. Common decency again, folks!
- Offer to babysit. Parents of kids with autism really struggle with this one. Offer to babysit. You could make a huge difference in their lives by just giving them a night off. Obviously check for any medical conditions first, but most kids with autism are on the mild end of things and ordinary people can care for them for short periods of time.
- End the loneliness. It’s not just the kids with autism who are lonely. As a parent of two kids with autism, I’ve found myself on the outer of parent groups and suchlike, because other parents feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say to me. I think they’re actually afraid. So don’t be. Make gestures of friendship. It may be very welcome.
All the “Awareness” days in the world won’t make a difference to people actually dealing with autism unless ordinary people in the community make a difference in how they treat people with this condition.
Autism is really common too – I’ve heard stats suggesting that 1 in 60 children is being diagnosed, and the numbers are heading north every decade.
Be kind. Be considerate. It’s not too much to ask, is it? Then we can get rid of these “awareness” days, and just have communities where everyone is looked after and respected, which is a better deal for everyone.