April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day and April is National Autism Awareness Month. As the CDC releases statistics identifying that 1 in 68 children in America are living with Autism, I wanted to offer a small glimpse into our families’ experience. My biggest struggle as the mother of a child with autism was learning to have patience with this ‘diagnosis’. I wanted to get to know everything about our daughter. What her favorite color would be? Or, her favorite food? Would she enjoy puzzles as much as her brother or prefer the blocks that seem to grow exponentially in the toy box? Who would be her first friend at school? Would she ever have friends?
We are actually quite lucky. Our daughter has found ways to answer some of these questions. Her favorite color is purple…indigo…blue…green…yellow…orange…and red. Her favorite foods are shells n’cheese, cheez its and strawberries. She likes puzzles and blocks depending on her mood. I don’t know who her first ‘friend’ in school was, but she attracts ‘friends’ at every program she attends. Its not a question of having someone to play with, its more a question of whether she wants to play with them. I’m not sure who taught her the calendar song or the various songs she constantly sings, I simply know singing makes her happy. She attended both a special education program and a typical pre-school. As a kindergartener, she can stumble through ‘adult’ books (scary), but will have a meltdown if we complete her counting out-of-order.
Technology in one form or another was a tool encouraged by educators, parents of children on the spectrum, and autism experts. At two and a half, Sage was diagnosed and we used quite a few social skills and educational DVDs. Sage’s brother became very savvy at using the computer and she’s followed in his stead with frequent practice. She now has her own Kindle and often uses the camera function on our cells phones. At first I deleted these pictures, more worried that my phone was damaged. She dropped our phones a lot. I soon realized that she was very serious about the pictures she was taking and it offered me a glimpse into her world.
There are so many families living with autism and learning to navigate the world with a child(ren) who struggles to communicate their world. The visibility of this neurodevelopmental disorder offers an opportunity for others to have some awareness of both the challenges and the unexpected joys of autism.