April is here. It is the month that my incredible son Mateo was born, and ironically it is also Autism Awareness month. And although Autism Awareness month has had all of the best intentions it has turned many people who have Autism against it. Many people with Autism just want to be accepted for who they are, to be left alone and not be put on display or used for a cause. But we also need to talk about Autism so people are no longer scared of a diagnosis, and services and support continue to be talked about, because Autism is here to stay. But I don’t want to get into the politics of April, but to just share a little more about Autism for our family.
Mateo was due on April 1st, supposed to be an April Fools baby, but the joke was on me and he stayed inside until April 10th. He was stubborn about entering this world, he was facing up instead of down and tangled up in his umbilical cord, but was eventually delivered healthy and happy. The diagnosis of Autism never once entered my mind in this first year and a half of his life. I was aware of Autism, because my cousin was diagnosed with Aspergers at a pretty young age, but I was will admit that I was very naive about what Autism really is.
Mateo was diagnosed at just over 2 years old. We had concerns at around 18 months when he had hardly any words, but did not know the cause. walking out of that Psychologists office, with a diagnosis of Autism was a shock for me, it frightened me because I didn’t know what to expect or what his future held. The words high-functioning, autism, probably a normal IQ, no eye contact, doesn’t share his excitement with you, refuses to point and very little vocabulary the words swimming in my head. That is what Autism was to Mateo, that is why he was diagnosed. Although I knew the life we had would change, little did I know it really changed that day that amazing kid came into my life on April 10th.
A diagnosis of Autism is much more than a bunch of traits. It’s more than delayed speech, little or no eye-contact, spinning in circles, flapping hands. It’s more than just therapy sessions and IEPs. My son sees and processes the world differently. From walking on his toes, to flapping his hands, not making eye-contact each little trait of Autism has a reason and a function.
My son is definitely not a statistic to be feared. He is an incredible boy with an amazing mind. He is loving and kind. People are drawn to him and his almost magical energy he has inside of him. He has a joy and amazing spirit that touches every therapist, teacher and friend that enters our life. So 7 years ago when he entered my life, I had no idea this incredible boy that would forever change my life. Change my views. Change my purpose. And forever shine a light on Autism for me and my friends and family.
I look forward to the days when he shares many of his thoughts with me, when he talks to me about Autism, when he shares his fears and hopes. When he advocates for himself and tells me what about Autism is important to him. But he really just wants to be himself. He is just like most 7 year old boys. He wants a bike for his birthday. He loves playing video games on the Ipad. He loves super heroes, and teasing his big sister. Yes, he’s a face of Autism. A face that deserves respect and understanding. A face that will grow up and need continued services. Just like those early intervention therapy services that have enabled him to be in a Mainstream Classroom today.
Of course we live Autism in our house every day of the year, but for many who have little contact with Autism, they don’t really think about it. But please spend a little time thinking about Autism and how we all can spread the truth about it. How each of us can show a little love and understanding and embrace individuals of all differences. Next time you see a kid flapping his arms with excitement or a person not wanting to look at you when meeting you for the fist time, you can have a little more understanding. And that little bit of understanding and acceptance will go very far for every person with Autism.