If you ask me ‘why does he do that?’, you cannot offend me. When you question, ‘if autism is not a disease, then what is it?’, I am not insulted. If you say, ‘My children are scared. How can I explain this to them?’ I will talk for as long as you will let me, I will explain as best I can. If you state that you are sorry, I will clarify why sorrow is the last thing you need to feel. When you seek to know more, all I ever feel is gratitude.
You cannot offend me.
I live in a world where someone can write this:
Underneath this picture, that face, my boy: those words.
I live in a world where, one day, my son might read what is written above. I live in a world where, one day, someone might express such views to his face. There are those who believe the world would be better off without autism. There are still those who believe the world would be better off without my son.
Today, in the supermarket, my daughter ran away. A split second, as I turned the trolley to lift her in, and she was gone. There was that sick, dead moment. The world slowed and my chest burned with panic.
I screamed and sobbed at the top of my lungs and when the shop assistant finally put her back in my arms, my son clung to me.
“Mummy – you are okay now. You are safe and sound. You don’t have to be scared mummy, H is here.” It was his voice that brought me back, his concern that returned my composure.
He makes the world brighter. He spreads happiness, not hate. He is four years old and it is not fair that the rest of the world does not have his innocence, his simple compassion.
Even now, reading those repugnant words again, I am not sure that I feel offended. I feel fear – cold, hard fear that anyone could think them, that anyone would want me to read them. I feel a bleak terror that one day, I may have to explain those words to my son.
The only way to obliterate ignorance is through knowledge. The only way to be more aware, is to question. I will explain – he does that because his senses are not quite the same as yours. I will answer – sometimes he shouts because, when things are unexpected, he gets very frightened. I will tell you about stimming , I will define hyposensitivity and hypersensitivity and sensory processing and dyspraxia and rigidity of thought and semantic pragmatic language… as much as I can, as often as I can.
I will explain and explain and explain and I will not feel a hint of resentment, a shred of dismay – even if you have made assumptions, even if you haven’t quite got the idea.
You cannot offend me.
Friend, stranger, relative – Ask. Please, ask me. Ask others. Do not stay silent through fear that a question is wrong. Do not stay silent because the question is hard.
Ask. Listen. Change. Become more aware.
And together, we will make sure my son lives in a world where he never has to read those words.
March 27th marked the start of autism awareness month. This Sunday, April the 2nd, is World Autism Awareness Day. If you do one thing this month to spread autism acceptance, ask a question. Ask an autistic person, ask someone close to autism – and really listen to the answer. Thank you.