Updated: Apr 7, 2019
Ah yes, World Autism Awareness Day. The Boy and I haven’t discussed it today – he’s up to his eyeballs in exams and probably won’t see the point. It is such an important day; Awareness is everything, Acceptance is all, Inclusion is the only way.
It is now ten years since he was diagnosed and I had to crawl my way bloodied and frightened through a bomb-site; I wish to goodness I had known then how happy we would be and how absolutely OK it was and is. For years I didn’t say the word Autism in front of him, not because we thought it was a frightening word but because I didn’t want him to think that he was one thing and everyone else he knew was something else. He was lonely enough.
When he was about seven I started to get a bit twitched about it. Autism Awareness Day was looming and I became horribly conscious that while I was trying to spread awareness, the only person that wasn’t actually aware of Autism, was him. It was time.
He crept into my bed early to find me sitting bolt upright, desperately sifting through my brain to find the right words. It went something like this.
‘Today is a really important day, Sweetheart. It’s called Autism Awareness Day. You know that you have an Amazing Brain, don’t you? Well, the reason for your Amazing Brain is something called Autism and today is the day that we celebrate it. Autism has given you all your cleverness and your skills, so Mummy is going to put a pretty dress on today to show you how excited I am and how proud I am of you’.
There was a long silence. My little boy, propped up by a pile of pillows, looked so small, so young. Tears started prickling my eyes. Shit shit shit shit shit. I shouldn’t have said it, he didn’t need to know. What have I done?
He slid out of bed. ‘I love your pyjamas, Mummy’. Breakfast now’.
And that was it. He was fine, gloriously disinterested and absolutely un-phased. It was me who was the wreck, as per usual, and he was just carrying on, doing his own thing and being his own perfect self. Just as he had when he was diagnosed, just as he had every single day of his life. It was me who crumbled completely, overwhelmed by fear. He just carried on being himself.
His Autism is his. It is an integral part of who he is, how he views the world and how he carves out his future. Sometimes it hurts him, mostly it doesn’t. He is excited to be alive, has a plan for his future and is deeply proud of himself. He is brave, beautiful and utterly perfect. It is a privilege to be his mother.
Happy Autism Awareness Day folks. Embrace difference, there is glory in it.
Martha Smith Parent Advocate is a supportive blog focusing on the challenges and wins of parenting children with additional needs. Based in Hampshire Martha runs workshops for schools and other education providers in Surrey, London & Hampshire on how to improve empathy between teachers, practitioners and parents.