Monthly Archives: April 2016

What Autism Awareness Month Means to Me

                I was at one of my favorite local stores in the checkout line, when the sales associate asked if I wanted to donate money towards Autism. When I asked what organization the money would be donated to, the sales associate seemed confused by my question. The manager was then asked the same question by the sales associate who had to then call corporate to find out who it was. While I patiently waited for an answer, the woman in the next checkout area asked me a question regarding my insistence on knowing what Autism organization the donation was going to. She asked me why I asked where the money was going to since it would help someone with Autism, wouldn’t it? I responded by saying that I preferred to find out what organization it was and if it was a national organization vs. local. She seemed confused by my response again asking, weren’t all Autism charities the same? Didn’t they all help people with Autism? I tried to politely disagree. At this point, the manager came back and told me the name of the organization. I declined to make a donation after finding out the info because I did not wish to donate funds to a national organization who really has not helped my family directly. I explained to the other customer, sales associate and store manager that I was a parent of twins with Autism and did not support this organization’s policy or their way of supporting families with a person with Autism. The store manager and other customer seemed a little taken aback by my response and stated that they never would have thought to question where the funds would go to. They figured it would just help someone with Autism. The sales associate told me that she had a family member with Autism and never thought also to ask: assuming that the money would help someone like a family member. I responded that it may not be the case and they thanked me for the info. To be honest, they may have thought I was a bit nuts to do this over a small monetary donation, but I felt that it was important to also bring awareness to asking where the money was going when making donations. As my sons have gotten older, I realize the importance of this more and more. For myself, it is not just about the awareness piece. I remember when my sons were younger, I purchased quite a bit of items that had puzzle pieces or the Autism awareness ribbon in hopes of spreading Autism awareness. I feel it is even more important for people to not only understand Autism, but also have more of a tolerance for people with differences in general. Our kids tend to stand out more so because of their challenges whether it be their stimming behavior, sensory and social issues as well as communication challenges. Some parents choose to address stares and awkward situations with passing out cards explaining how Autism affects their child.  We have all been in some interesting situations with our kids while in public. I remember when I took my sons to the movies, one of them was a bit scared by the loudness in the theater as well as the darkness. He refused to sit down in the seat. Funny enough he did want to watch the movie, but would only do so standing by the door while he held the door open. After many failed attempts at trying to get him to sit. I stood with him by the door while my other son sat with his helper. Halfway thru the movie, the movie cinema staff person came in to check out the theater as they typically do. When the staff person saw that my son was standing near the door and wanted the door open, he gave me a confused look. I quickly and quietly explained to him that he had Autism and while my son had successfully sat through previous movies, he for some reason could not do so now. The staff person just nodded. I thought to myself, OK, I guess he gets it. He left. In 10 minutes or so he came back with a folding chair for my son to sit down on which to my surprise my son immediately sat down. I was able to inch him closer to the seat section where he watched the remainder of the movie without issue. After the movie was over, I found the movie theater staff person and thanked him again. I asked if he knew someone with Autism and nonchalantly he responded he had a neighbor who had a child with special needs and he wasn’t sure if he had Autism. The staff person said that he got the chair because he couldn’t believe my son would stand for that long. I, of course, was very appreciative of his kindness and assistance in helping my son. This person not only chose to look past what may have appeared to be “odd” behavior, but actually helped the situation. Officially April is Autism Awareness month, but I hope we all can help others better understand not only our children, but that we all have differences that make us who we are. I recently saw something that represented this…