It is that time of year again..you know..where we are supposed to be "aware" or "More Aware"..or perhaps "spread awareness"...Time to tweet and blog and join face book events..and generally talk to the same people you do all throughout the year. Yes-Autism awareness month is once again upon us..It is time to take off the brown ribbon of colo-rectal awareness month(March) and don the blue or the puzzle piece one for autism (move over colons! Autism is in town)..or the green one for IBS awareness (that's too is in April..along with Alcohol awareness(red ribbon), and sexual assault and prevention awareness(teal ribbon) and a myriad of things we ought to be aware of-each with coinciding ribbons) . What to wear what to wear..
I know without a doubt that when I walk into my children's school next week-there will be many puzzle piece ribbons..Well meaning individuals who are saying Look!"I am aware- I have a ribbon! I know someone with autism!"(Hey-just because I know people with colons-you won't catch me wearing a brown ribbon! The same goes for autism) .... I got a call from the school yesterday. It seems that Oscar was being teased. About what? I don't know. The only reason we do know about this is because one of his friends brought this to the attention of a teacher. It was suggested that another child or children may have been making fun of Oscar's stimming. For reasons beyond ridiculous-I am not allowed to know who this child/children was/were or what exactly it is that he/she/they/they did. Only that he/she was/were firmly dealt with. No, I was told that it would be up to Oscar-(who may or may not be aware of what it is that happened) to tell me. That's right-put it on my son who has struggles with pragmatic language. I stated that Oscar-was well aware of everything that goes on in his day-but, it might take him as much as a month to process it-and let me know. I then asked whether or not the other child/children knew that Oscar was on the spectrum. I was told "no."..I asked what the kids at school were taught about autism..I was told "I don't know".. So where does that leave my boy? Is he becoming the elephant in the room? Oh sure, he might stim and giggle inappropriately, flap and "eee"-but we can't tell anyone why..can't explain any of it..no, somehow that would violate his privacy No, we'll just let him be who he is and not explain anything when somebody notices. Are you freaking kidding me? We can't explain that there might be a reason behind the things that he does-we'll just let other kids think he's weird. So, while we are being internationally "aware"-we are locally not going to acknowledge..and instead rely on assumption-and maybe a ribbon. We'll just "assume" the other kids will figure it out? As my fourth grade teacher -Sister Catherine Marita always said "Assuming makes an ass of you!" she also said "Your cruising for a bruising"-but that's a post for another day..
I am sure that many will say "But this is why we have an awareness month!!" "This is why it is so important!!"..Sure, we can talk and tweet and blog about acceptance or a cure (depending on where you stand) we can say that more research needs to be done, more supports given, accommodations offered..We can argue and sign petitions or not-yell about experience or inexperience and point of view and privilege...we can take a month and wear a ribbon....until next month when the topic changes (along with the ribbon). I don't negate the need for any of these things. I'm just saying that one month and a ribbon do not convey what my kids live every day. It doesn't even come close.
Oscar came home from school yesterday in a messy mood. He told me that his day had been "all mixed up" (*sigh* part of this is my fault-I mixed up lunch boxes-and one does NOT interfere with Oscar's snacks!!) and that he was bullied at recess. Someone wanted his attention and he didn't want to give it. Now, I have no idea if this is the "incident" that I was called about. (believe me, I WILL find out) But I will say this-the boy he spoke about has issues of his own. Reasons for behaving the way in which he does. It does not excuse his behavior-it does however, help to explain it. Which goes a long way towards understanding.
Three of my four kids are on very different places of the spectrum-with Oscar being the most affected (for lack of a better word) Oscar knows that he is different-he is aware.. He knows that most people don't "stim" like him..or flap or say "eeee". He knows-As do the people in his life. They also know that he is caring, and kind and very very funny. What some people need to understand-is why he does some of the things he does.There is a big difference between awareness and being aware. My kids don't need a ribbon or a puzzle piece or a color-they don't need a month...they need twelve..and they need it forever.
So today, I wore my pajamas( all day)-as it was a snow day and the kids were home from school. (yup-just when we thought spring had sprung-mother nature played a nasty April fools joke..I'm so not laughing) Tomorrow-I will wear whatever is clean. Because awareness isn't a color-or a month. It is every day.