Thursday, April 3, 2014

Don't Just Be Aware. Care.

April is Autism Awareness Month. Yesterday was World Autism Awareness Day. I was pretty quiet the whole day. I wanted to post something...but didn't really know what I wanted to say.

When Andrew was first diagnosed, I looked forward to April every year. Spreading awareness. Every day of the month I would share something about our daily life with him on my Facebook page. Wanting others to learn from us. To share our wealth of knowledge and hopefully change others viewpoint. As the years have passed....that changed. I am not completely sure why. 
Maybe because I share with people about my boys all the time. I don't just save it for one month of the year. I live it. Daily. I have nothing to hide and I am so proud of them. 
Maybe because there is more awareness now then there was 7 years ago. I feel like Autism is in the news all the time. Always a new study. Always a new idea about the cause. Always something. It is somewhat overwhelming. And painful. 
I don't look forward to April anymore. I have been thinking a lot about why. What changed? 
I am tired of awareness. I want more. Our kids deserve more. Awareness is the beginning. But if it never goes past that, then what have we accomplished really?
Don't just be aware. Care. The definition of the word "care" is as follows. "The provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something." Awareness is not enough. I want you to care. Caring demands action. When you care about something, you do whatever you can to help. 
Caring does not require money. There is so much that people can do to care for our kids who are struggling to get the help they need to navigate this difficult world we live in. 
Help your kids go through their room this month and find things that you don't need anymore. Donate books, puzzles, toys, and art supplies to a local special needs classroom. Call your church and see if they have a list of families with kids on the spectrum that have any needs you can fulfill.  Search out programs in your local community that serve children and adults with special needs and ask them if you can provide them any assistance or supplies. Donate that old iPad or iPod that you are replacing with the newest version to a child that may not have the ability to communicate and learn otherwise. You can see the immediate and life changing impact you can have when you help out on a personal level in your local community, instead of donating to a big organization.
Better yet are things you can do that don't require you to give anything monetary at all. For example, consider becoming a buddy to a kiddo at your church once a month so their parents can go to church together without worrying about the safety of their child. Or when you see a child at the park that seems a bit different, don't ignore them. Don't walk away. Say hello. Even if they don't look at you, they hear you. Trust me. Find their parent (who is probably hovering close-by as we tend to do) and strike up a conversation. Encourage your child to play with ours. Those seemingly little things are huge to me. There is nothing I want more than for my child to feel loved and accepted by others. Because so often, that is not the case. 
A month ago, our friend Jason had a birthday party that he invited us to. We have some wonderful friends, and Jason and his wife Heidi are 2 of the best. They love our boys. They show it in the little things they do that are big things to us. At Jason's party, Andrew wanted to go and play at a playground nearby and Jason left his friends and went and played with Drew. I am tearing up at this moment just thinking about it. And I wasn't even able to be at the party. I was stuck at home with James having a meltdown. But when Bryan came home and I asked him how the party went with Drew, this was the biggest thing that stood out. That little moment that meant the world to him. 
Give of yourself. Just a moment. A little bit of time to let that person young or old know that they matter. That they are important enough for you to want to interact with them. 
Most of all, if you do nothing else this month....please do one thing for me. Talk to your children. Ask them about the kids at school. About the child that seems a bit different than everyone else. Or in our case, ask them about the kids in the "special" class. Talk to them about Autism. About how to treat those people that are different than them. How to be kind and caring. Show them by your actions that they don't have to be afraid. You are their best teacher. 
Your kids are the ones that will be growing up with mine. They will be his peers as time flies by. They will be the ones that will be here after their dad and I are no longer on this earth. We need them to care, not just be aware of Autism. They have the ability to change other people's viewpoint about kids like mine. One kind action just because they want to be kind, can change the opinion of so many of their peers. They have the power to make my sons' lives better. And you can plant that seed for free. 
So this month and every day that follows, don't just be aware of Autism.
Care.  


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