April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd, 2020 was the official day for Autism Awareness. What is autism? Autism is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviours and is a “spectrum condition” that affects people differently and to varying degrees. (Autism Society, 2020)
This year the theme is “celebrating differences”. One of the first things I have realized since I started working with children on the spectrum is that despite having the same diagnoses, they are all different. I have worked professionally with these children for almost nine years and it has taught me that people with autism have far more to offer than we think. People with autism may be unable to express themselves at times but they too have feelings, emotions, and the need to belong. They have thoughts and perhaps even dreams of what they want to do or become. I am honoured to be able to go through the journey with them and help them as much as I possibly can.
‘Celebrating differences’ also means celebrating the fact that children with autism learn differently and that’s okay! Learning differently means they might take a different academic path from the ‘norm’ and that’s okay. Perhaps, they might have something bigger and more meaningful way to carry out their journey.
The word autism has a special place in my heart because I have a brother-in-law who has autism. He is 37 years old and the kindest person I know. His intentions are pure, and he looks at the world with a different set of eyes. When I first met my husband’s family, he was the first person to accept me into the family. He was unable to express himself, but his actions spoke louder than any words needed.
All the children with special needs and the families I have worked with have taught me the true meaning of love. It takes true patience and true love to raise and care for a child/person with special needs. If you can show the child love and compassion, the child will be grateful for the rest of his/her life. At times, the child/person may be unable to reciprocate or express his/her gratitude, but believe that it is there. Remember they are people too. They are different and in the spirit of this year’s theme, let’s come together and celebrate all the differences because at the end of the day it’s the differences that makes us special.