Yesterday I sponsored a panel discussion that was designed to bring awareness to issues related to autism in the home, school & community. Although I was a panelists, I learned so much from listening to the stories of others.
1. I am truly blessed. I have had others tell me this but I understand for the first time what that means. My sons are both verbal and participate in mainstream education. Their autism is not severe, though they do have issues related to sensory overload, stimming and learning challenges. From what I learned, I definitely should count my blessings.
2. Society still doesn't "get" autism & I'm not sure that they even want to. Telling someone that they should leave their kid in the car because he's making noises that are related to his disability is horrible. I was pained to see another mom cry and talk about the cruel experiences she'd had from strangers wanting her to make their lives more comfortable by suggesting she remove her child or telling him to shut up.
3. Mothers of children with autism have greater stress levels than mothers of children with a critical illness. I have heard this before, but it still amazes me. People don't understand what it's like to raise a child with a disability, especially when it prevents you from doing many of the things that were once part of your daily life. Going to the grocery store can be a chore if you have a child prone to meltdowns or who makes random noises. Nobody wants people staring at their kid or making snide comments.
4. There is still much work that needs to be done. Autism Awareness is not at the forefront of what we need to be focusing on as a society...but it needs to be. With over 3 million people living on the spectrum, more dialogue needs to take place as to what needs to be done in order to make sure they are as successful and supported as possible.
This panel was a great experience for me, even if turnout wasn't what I wanted it to be. I know now, more than ever, that my work is not done.
"I cried because I had no shoes, then I saw a man who had no feet..."