My son was diagnosed with autism a few months ago, and it's been my favorite topic of conversation ever since -- sometimes I feel like it's the only thing I talk about anymore. With autism awareness day approaching, I started asking myself why sharing information about this personal thing has become so important to me. It's not like autism has been a life-long cause of mine; I only vaguely knew what it was until a few months ago, and didn't know anyone who'd been affected by it. Is it because I want to publicly share my son's autism? Not really. He's got some classic signs of it, but honestly a small part of me hopes the diagnosis was wrong and in time we'll see he's just a slightly quirky kid with a speech delay.
Like every parent, I watched and waited for my kids to hit the milestones, looking for any sign of delays or abnormal development. When my son's speech seemed delayed, and we noticed him flapping his hands now and again, my first thought was, "God, please don't let it be autism." I'm not proud of that, but it's true. You hear about it so much in the news lately, so it was the first thing to pop into my head. Autism scared me. Not because I had images of grown men talking about boxer shorts from K-Mart; I knew autism was more than that. What scared me was how unknown it was to me at the time. You can't see it. It affects everyone differently. There's no cure or medicine for it. Even doctors trained in the field have trouble diagnosing it. Everyone's arguing over the causes of it.
I realized today, though, why it's so important for me to talk about autism and raise awareness. It's so people I know who may be touched by this disorder, can be less scared of it and more accepting of a diagnoses because they'll know someone who's gone through it, too. Thinking about autism in the abstract is very different than acknowledging it in your own life, and maybe like me, hard to accept the signs. They can know that, while we never wanted to see the signs and would have rather ignored them, we still acknowledged them and quickly sought treatment. Maybe they'll be more willing to recognize autism if they see it in their kids. They'll see that I'm happy and so is my son, and that he didn't suddenly change because of a diagnosis.
Before the diagnosis, I had no role models for living with autism. I'd seen videos, talked to professionals, and read blogs, but that still didn't make me less scared or accepting of it in our lives. When we hear someone say, "Oh! I know someone who....," they're saying those words to bring the topic closer to home, to humanize it and make it real. Since I didn't know anyone who'd been through it, I hope by talking about it so much I can bring autism closer to people I know, so they "know someone who" themselves.