Imagine seeing one your favorite, most cherished family pictures on a hugely popular website like iVillage. Smiling faces on us, stoic looks on the kids, big brown eyes shining, cute little hands captured perfectly, beautiful surroundings, sunny days, happy hearts. I remember how the boys were running around barefoot and laughing and how cute, yet cheesy, they looked in their matching outfits. They even listened to all of my pleading prior to the photo shoot by diligently staying out of the dirt.
Now imagine the words “Signs of Autism” and “Real Moms Share” splashed across the top of that special picture. That means one of those sweet, little, innocent faces is the real face of autism. That means it’s one of your kids, because that’s you smiling right above it. Would that change the way your feel about your child? Your family? Your dreams?
Read Real Moms Share the Earliest Signs of Autism on iVillage.
A few years ago, I’m not sure if I would’ve been excited to see this image. A few years ago, I’m not sure my family would’ve been excited to see this image. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so quick to share it on Facebook and Twitter, or text my husband about it or call my mom about it or blog about it. A few years ago, we weren’t comfortable with autism. We were skeptical, scared, insecure and unnerved. Today, we know autism isn’t a dirty word at all, it’s simply a new way of looking at the world.
There’s something about autism that reminds me about the way people used to talk about cancer. They’d lower their voices and whisper, “she has cancer.” And the word “cancer” was hardly audible. Obviously, autism is not killing our friends and family members, but people still whisper about it sometimes. Today, people shout about cancer from the rooftops and that’s exactly what they should be doing. Why? Because talking about something, especially when it’s bad, makes it real. Real things get noticed. Real things get funding. Real things get cured.
I tend to think discussing autism works the same way. Reading this post right now is the definition of “awareness,” a word that gets tossed around so much it’s watered down like a bad margarita on a hot summer day. But awareness is critically important. That’s why I force myself to discuss autism openly, honestly and nonchalantly, even when I don’t feel like it. The old me would’ve NEVER done this. The mom me who has two beautiful boys and never wants them to be ashamed of autism, well, she’s a talker. She’s an advocate. She’s all about awareness.
Understanding the early signs of autism is so important. Even if you have fears your child might be autistic, doesn’t mean that’s actually the case. There are plenty of sensory, learning and speech delays that don’t warrant an autism diagnosis. Every story is different. And if you do get an autism diagnosis, welcome to the club. You don’t get an actual badge, but you if you did, I’m sure you’d wear it with pride.
Read more about living with autism in ‘Advocate Mommy‘ category of MommyQ.