Monday, April 02, 2012

Happy World Autism Day!

Today, we are celebrating my Joey and all our autistic friends, and their wonderful ways of seeing the world and sharing it with us!

I think World Autism Day is a great idea. When I started this blog oh-so-long-ago, it was mostly because I didn't want other parents to feel as lost, confused, and afraid as we did when we discovered that all those quirks Joey had meant he was having trouble navigating the world. We had just learned one of many important lessons in our lives: that autism and disability aren't scary. Joey is who he is, and we love him no matter what labels are used to describe him. In other words, there might be reason to get prepared, to be concerned, to think and research and collaborate... but there was nothing to fear.

Far too many parents are left to make decisions in the face of the fear of the unknown. They are handed a diagnosis, smacked with the idea that their child has more challenges before him or her than those parents might have expected, and no information for how to deal with the news, or to help their child.

We are also on the brink of another challenge: discussing with Joey what autism is, and what it means. Although we don't hide Joey's autism- not even from him- that doesn't necessarily means he understands it. At the end of our IEP meeting today (how's THAT for celebrating World Autism Day?) we were already started to discuss strategies for middle school. We have a year to prepare. Getting Joey to understand himself so he can be better prepared to self-advocate and help us help him is part of that important transition process to the world of middle school (a world that presents special challenges to everyone, autistic or otherwise).

One of the ways we prepare is to read about our friends who have older children, who are themselves going through these transitions and changes, and sharing parenting experiences with other parents. We coming into a moment where it may be useful for Joey to form his own understanding of himself and the part autism plays in who he is, possibly through connecting with other autistic people. We don't know how much of his self-identity will include autism, if any; but sharing experiences with others who have an inkling of how you think makes a huge difference- a lesson I remember from my own middle school and high school years.

So we are glad today to join in the celebration of our friends, our family, all those who understand or want to understand Joey and how he experiences the world. Without autism, Joey would not be Joey. We love Joey.

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