We love our son, and we are so proud to let the world know that. However, there are so many people out there that seem to love to tear that down and mock it. Others just don’t understand and their response is more insensitive and just because they don’t understand. I want to say “That’s OK. We’re used to it.” but it’s not, and as time goes on you get better at shrugging it off, but you never fully get used to it.
Our daughter, however, is not “used to it” and mainly it’s because she hasn’t been directly on the receiving end of it. I know I can’t protect her from everything, that sheltering her will only leave her unprepared for facing the world on her own as an adult, but boy do I want to!
One day, not to long ago, Taylor came home with a lanyard with cards full of pecs (or PECS) attached. PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communication System (link goes to more info about the system). It is a way for people, who cannot talk and cannot sign, to be able to communicate with others. The are square 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch cards with a picture of nouns, verbs, and adjectives as well as the written word on them. The person can then create a sentence with them or just point to the thing they want or need. How they use them is completely up to personal preference and capability. I assumed it was accidentally forgotten to be taken off, and as a result, Taylor came home with it. It was interesting to see what he was using at school.
Well a few days after, before we left for school, his sister saw it and asked if she could take it to school to show during their daily show-and-tell time. I hesitated because I was worried. How would the kids react? Would they be open to that? I said that would be great to her because I don’t want her to ever think she should be embarrassed of her brother, and I know I can’t protect her from everything, nor should I. I also knew that in a classroom setting with a teacher I know is awesome, so supportive, and accepting, that she would be definitely safe in sharing. My own experiences cloud my emotions many times, and thankfully I told them where they could go and encouraged her to share about her brother. I dropped her off at school, told her I loved her, left the parking lot, and proceeded to forget all about “sharing day”…
…until I picked her up. As she came up to my car, her teacher came up to me glowing and telling me how well Emma did, sharing her brother’s lanyard with her class. She told me how proud she was of her brother, how she explained what autism was, and how Taylor was non verbal.
Her teacher went on to tell me that not only had the students received it well, but had asked questions and had shown interest in what autism was and what it was like to not be able to speak. It struck me that just because children are exposed to autism and made aware that it exists, even though they may know how to recognize when one might be autistic, they really don’t know what it really is until it is explained to them from first hand experience. And who better to inform children than a child them self? Emma really can explain it better than I can some times. I tend to go into detail, usually too far into detail. Emma realizes, without knowing it, the basic concept and can blow me away sometimes with how she can simply word things. An example was, there was a time when she and her brother were playing at a park, and a boy came up to Taylor and started talking to him. When he looked confused as to why he wasn’t responding. Emma walked right up and simply explained “He doesn’t talk, but he loves to play.”
I would have probably glossed that poor boy’s eyes over as I over explained what autism was, it’s symptoms, and more…and totally missed the point and lost what could have been a beautiful learning experience for that kid. He didn’t want, or need, to know the complete ins and outs of autism. He just needed to know that deep down Taylor was just like him and liked to play at a park too.
I was so proud of her, and I really shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve seen her do this before. What really surprised me was that not only did kids have questions about autism, it sounded as if they really cared about those answers to their questions. Advocates come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. I have hated the word ‘advocate’ because I’ve seen people who advocate for their causes, what ever they may be, become so obnoxious, obsessed, or out of touch. I would slightly cringe inside when I would hear myself associated with that word. I just wanted to be an average parent with a special situation who isn’t afraid to share about it.
My daughter really showed me that I had it wrong about what an advocate was. It IS just someone with a special situation who isn’t afraid to talk about it. Any one can be an advocate. I was only seeing the advocates that have gone just a little too far. My daughter doesn’t realize, but I think that many times, she is a better advocate than I. Those kids seemed truly interested. Her teacher was proud and beaming. I was proud and smiling in my heart. People have said we’re raising our daughter right, but I can’t take all the credit. She is amazing on her own. What we are trying to do is guide her and help her learn about this world, life, Jesus, and how to make good decisions. Her heart and personality are all her own. And we are so so proud. She changed lives that day. She might have set the tiniest spark that may in years to come, or decades, make a difference. If not in that experience, I’m sure there will be more.
As always, positive comments are welcome. Negative hurtful comments will be trashed before I can even finish reading them. I have many readers who are emotionally vulnerable, and I will not post comments that will further harm.
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