Why World Autism Awareness Day Is Important To Me
Written By: Shaowda Salehin
Photo by: Shaowda Salehin
Human life is a very fragile and delicate span of time. During this time anything and everything can happen, some of it painful and some of it beautiful, and Autism falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum of happenings. It can be painful and confusing to have a neurodivergent member in the family- we struggle to communicate and have difficulty understanding their minds. But once we accept that human beings are different from one another at all levels, not just neurologically, it becomes much clearer to see the beauty in hardship. The beauty is in an Autistic person’s smile, likes, dislikes, talents, habits, and quirks - because the person with Autism in your life is your person, is your loved one, is your blood, and is your friend. That’s what makes everything that they are beautiful.
It is a massive challenge for a child with Autistic, like my 11-year-old brother, to fit himself into society’s glove. His future can look so uncertain because he doesn’t follow the guidelines of going to school and getting a job to contribute to the machine of our economy. He’d rather feed birds all day and become a professional bird feeder, but that isn’t really a job, and neither does he care for it to be since he doesn’t recognize the essentiality of money for survival. So he just lives in his own mind, in his own world, with his own thoughts that are impenetrable to the beliefs of what he should be like. Otherwise, he suffers from severe anxiety, OCD, Tourette's syndrome, ADHD, poor motor skills, and a list of other ASD-related traits that sometimes make day-to-day life a struggle for him. It is not easy to have a child with Autism, it is actually extremely demanding because this neurological condition is constantly evolving with age - we never know what to expect. Social awkwardness makes it difficult for Shahir to make friends, so he prefers talking to pets and other animals. He doesn’t have any friends his age, other autistic children in his class don’t have friends either. Although he doesn’t express his loneliness in very many words because his language skills are still developing, I know he longs to ride his bike with someone other than his big and boring older sister.
Autism doesn’t just affect the person with Autism, it also affects everyone who loves them. To help a person with Autism means to also help their families live more fulfilling lives because most of the time, my brother’s tantrums and bipolarity are entirely unintentional - he does not mean to hurt his family through being himself. We feel we have much more learning to do in how to handle different human behavior and how to adjust to his life more than forcing him to conform to ours. Every day I open myself to the beauty of loving someone who is atypical by using the therapy resources I have available to me so that I can learn to communicate with my brother. I don’t love my brother despite his Autism, I love him because of it. I love him and the love I have for him can never be replaced by another brother. The fact is that should you love unconditionally and the only thing that should matter is preserving that love. It clears the fog of pain to reveal the beauty of the relationship you have with your loved one.
Today, April 2 - World Autism day - marks the inclusivity of children like Shahir. Their journey is a lifelong one and it encompasses a range of ups and downs. I am so happy that the world recognizes the struggles and joys of families and people who live very different lives than the stereotypical "average" life. Sometimes it feels like we are in the shadows, hiding the difficulties away from everyone around us so that we feel a semblance of normality. But normality doesn’t always have to be the only route to happiness. On this day, we celebrate being with family, whatever your family looks like - atypical or typical. This day also promotes research for Autism, therapy options, and integration of people with Autism into society without eradication of their Autistic traits. There are no viable treatment options or “corrective measures” that can turn a person with Autism into a neurotypical person - as a global society, we are learning to accept people with Autism for who they are rather than seeing them for what they’re not. At school, children learn to honor their peers with differences because they are being educated through assemblies and presentations on Autism which completely changes their perspective on the “odd child”. Every year, my family celebrates this day as a holiday because it feels like it was a day made just for us, it’s like the world is giving us a great big embrace and saying to my brother: it’s okay to be the way you are.”
Take a look at some of these links for more information on Autism and Autism Awareness Day, and to learn how you can be an effective supporter and ally to people with Autism:
- Check out the UN Observance of World Autism Awareness Day
- Follow some creators who talk about Autism like @emi2d2, @the.autistic.alien, Saniya Autism Blogs, or @autismwestern
- Read through resources on the Autism Canada site