“autism awareness starts with you” – I’ve seen the phrase used a lot in the build up to tomorrow – April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day.
Well I want to tell you about a walk in the sand, a walk I took just yesterday with Melon while we are on vacation. A walk that reminded me – awareness, and understanding and acceptance start with me…
Boy fell asleep, Hubs stayed with him at the holiday cottage. Melon and me headed for the beach with dog in tow. It was cloudy, breezy and perfect. We walked hand in hand along the edge of the foamy surf, we sat and ate sandwiches, we listened and looked, smelled and touched, we dug holes. Melon vocal stimmed, and ran through a repeat cycle of echolalia phrases associated with happy memories and happy times. There was no conversation, as such, but plenty of interaction. Like I said, it was perfect.
Two years ago, that same walk would’ve felt a lot less perfect to me. Two years ago, Melon hadn’t yet been diagnosed as autistic.
I didn’t know about sensory differences, echolalia, non-linear memory. I was unaware.
I didn’t get that the feel of the wind in her face, the sand on her hands, the smell of the salt spray – all that sensory input – could fill her head to the point where it pushed aside speech and rendered it unnecessary. I didn’t get that repeating phrases and accounts of previous happy memories “Nea has fairies…went for a drive to Uncle Ralph’s house…went up to the theatre” was her way of verbally telling me she was happy now. I didn’t understand.
More than that, I didn’t accept. Two years ago, I’d have spent that walk trying to force conversation to happen, trying to draw her attention to interaction with me. All Melons enjoyment of the moment would have been lost as I tried to enforce my idea of how “enjoyment” should look.
Two years ago.
I’ve learned so much. I’m Not perfect, not by any means, I still have lessons, so many of them, to learn in this journey.
But, I’m more aware. I understand more.
And I accept my little girl, for what she enjoys, for the way she enjoys it, and ways in which she lets me know. For who she is.
And that has to be. If I am truly ever going to make the world a better place for Melon, a better fit. If I’m going to lobby for change and autism acceptance from family, services and society, then I HAVE to be at a place of acceptance myself.
Autism. It’s always with us. Sometimes it drowns out everything else, sometimes it throws up challenges. And sometimes it weaves a thread of mystery and beauty through simple everyday experiences.
A walk in the sand, rough beneath our feet, spray in our faces, salt in our nostrils, eyes filled with sky, a little warm hand in mine….
Autism, Awareness, understanding, acceptance.