LIFE IS A SPECTRUM

Autism-Awareness-Month

Believe it or not, there are people in this country who are still completely unaware that it's Autism Awareness Month.

 

Those people are clearly not reading this blog, because I've been talking about it so much that I'm starting to annoy myself. I'm afraid that I'm in danger of taking myself too seriously, that I'll eventually lose the ability to conduct normal conversations and will, instead, communicate only in long pretentious speeches peppered with words like “splinter skills” and “neurotypical” from which the local media is encouraged to pull inspiring sound bites.

 

After a month of “awareness speak,” I fully expect to wake up one morning and find myself transformed from my human form into one giant puzzle piece, the way that Kafka character turned into a roach ... See? What was I worried about? Name-dropping Kafka in an essay about autism awareness? There is clearly no danger of me becoming pretentious ... no... none ...no.

It may be time to go back to writing about how I need a pedicure and my inability to cook. (The link at the left is provided, in case you'd like to read something completely unrelated to autism awareness.)

 

That being said, prepare for a startling admission: ALL my reasons for getting on board the Autism Awareness Month Train this year are totally selfish. All. Totally. (Probably not that startling, after all.)

 

A year ago, I thought the whole thing was, at best, stupid: “Awareness? You want me to show you some bleedin' AWARENESS? just come a Little. Bit. Closer.” I'm always slightly Cockney in these violent fantasies, for some reason.

 

I know some of you who still feel this way – and to you I say, “What? You don't see how a blue Eiffel Tower is going to directly benefit your autistic child?” Cynics.

 

So I watched last year as Good Morning show after Good Morning show hijacked our community and our children to ask over and over again – sometimes completely ignorantly well-meaning -- “Are vaccines worse than POISON?!?” “Are children literally DYING of autism?!?!” “Will your child turn autistic and KILL you?!?!”

 

OK, perhaps I made that last one up. But just barely. There have been similar stories. Talk shows as recently as this year described autism as “The diagnosis parents fear MOST!!!!!” Surely, terminal cancer is a scarier diagnosis ... right?

 

I thought, I'm going to stage a coup of Autism Awareness Month – at least in my corner of the world. I'm at the very least going to join the cacophony of crazy to say, “I'm here too. Not miserable. Not afraid of matricide.”

 

I thought that maybe there's someone out there like I was three years ago, terrified of the A-word, and in addition to the stories like “The TERROR of Autism!!!!!!!” they should hear that our story is possible too: Three years after diagnosis, we are a joyful, slightly chaotic – often challenged – family. We have autism amongst us and we are still very very happy.

 

I'm not saying that our experience is an accurate depiction of the entire wide spectrum of autism. Far from it.

 

There are as many ways to be autistic as there are to be human.

 

But when PBS shares journalism legend Robert MacNeil's experience with an autistic grandson, and gives a forum for his daughter to share her opinion that her son is autistic because he was vaccinated and that all his problems were caused by vaccinations, I feel compelled to tell the five or so people who regularly read my blog that I feel differently.

My son was autistic from birth – though I didn't know all the signs because he was a baby and babies just don't generally do all that much then anyway. And his autism, while a profound part of who he is, doesn't prevent him from being a funny, social, happy, occasionally oddball, member of a family of oddballs. (FYI, I believe in a genetic component to autism with Very. Good. Reason.)

I continue to vaccinate my children. But I'm not here to debate vaccinations. That particular deceased pony has been thoroughly walloped on this site previously.

 

At the beginning of the month, we also “Lit it Up Blue” for Autism Speaks. And I was surprised by how gratified and touched I felt the first time I saw a cashier in a store on World Autism Awareness Day, wearing a blue shirt.

 

When I told her my son was autistic, she beamed (not the usual response), as though she felt a pride at being caught in an act of kindness. She felt ownership of the movement, even in a that small way that she participated. And we talked a little about autism and I was able to share our story (share=monopolize her time with a pretentious speech that took so long she nearly got fired). And she spoke as though she were directly involved, even though her personal link – something convoluted about her roommate's fiance's grandchild's husband or something – was less direct than what most of us deal with on a regular basis.

 

But we must invite these people into our community, to thank them for their contribution – even wearing a blue shirt – and make them feel like one of us, because today's blue-shirted Gap Kids cashier might be tomorrow's defender against restaurant bullies. She'll definitely be a voter (I have strongly encouraged her to bother to vote next time) and who knows? She might one day run for office and get to vote in FAVOR of funding programs for those with developmental disabilities.

 

I'm not asking for miracles. And I don't care if you light it up blue or green or if the whole thing just makes you see red.

 

But I do believe in sharing your story. Autism awareness is about making people aware of YOUR point of view. Hijack awareness for your own personal cause. Make the month of May “We're Still Aware Month” (actually, I think somebody's doing that ... or maybe I dreamed it) or tell someone, one person, something of which you wish they were aware.

 

At the very least, let's not reject the people that are trying to join us, trying to do something. Most of them would like to do more. If they're wearing a blue shirt, ask them, “Wanna do something for autism awareness? How about babysit my kids while I go to the grocery store?”

After that proposal, they'll think voting is the easy way out.

Reader Comments

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I've learned a lot about autism from you, Amanda...as someone who has no autistic family members (that I know of), I appreciate what you do to educate people like me!

Hugs,
Wendy

P.S. Now go get that pedicure...

Loved your post today, and have shared it with those unwitting people who call me "friend" on facebook. 8)

Well done... again.

It is funny how something as simple as a blue lightbulb on a neighbor's porch or a blue shirt on a friend can give you the warm fuzzies. It worked for me, though! It's a start! =)

Hi,

I have been following your blog since finding you on Twitter. I really value all that you do and I don't know whether you take any notice of blog awards but I would like to pass one on to you and it's on my blog. Hope you like it.

Thanks again

Karen xx

As Always, Another Great Post

I'm pretty cynical about Autism Awareness Month. Yes, it's great that a lot of media is getting info out on autism--some info great, some not so great!

How much awareness is this really raising? I think the people who are interested are listening and those that aren't interest are tuning it all out.

I also feel that those of us that blog about autism year-round are doing are part! Yes, are situations are all different. That's a great representation of what autism is like!

Total 5 comments

scentsypiecebypiece

OK, that blog post title sounds a leeeetle bit creepy and weird now that I read it in the big letters.

Nonetheless, we do now have a winner of our giveaway of the Scentsy Piece By Piece Warmer for Autism Speaks! Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway and big congratulations to ...

Mary M!

Mary will receive a brand new warmer and scented wax from Scentsy. Just email me your mailing address, Mary, to AmandaBroadfoot@gmail.com and Scentsy will send out a warmer directly to you ... and it'll still have that new warmer smell.

Reader Comments

Thank you!

Yaaayyyy!!!!

Total 1 comments

scentsypiecebypiece

Yesterday, I wrote about our “Light it up blue” efforts. “Light it up blue” is an autism awareness campaign being promoted by the Autism Speaks organization.

If you still want to broadcast your blue light for autism, today is World Autism Day, and tonight we're going to be burning the blue bulbs for autism again. (Walmart has them: They're called "Party Bulbs," they're very difficult to find and NO ONE working there knows where they are.)

My front porch may continue to burn blue long after April, in fact, because after teetering on a rickety step-stool to reach it and then having a bunch of bug and spider-baby carcasses fall in my mouth, I'm not changing it.

Now that Autism Speaks has painted our cause blue, the Scentsy Foundation would like to give it a nice fragrance. Twice a year, the organization releases a “Cause Warmer” to raise funds for a designated cause or organization. This spring, they're fundraising for Autism Speaks through the Piece by Piece Warmer; all sales of these specific units will benefit the organization.

I was actually familiar with Scentsy's products before they contacted me about this autism-specific warmer. Using a small bulb instead of a flame – much safer for children – the attractive ceramic warmers melt reusable scented wax in a variety of scents. I had a small one that mounts flush with the wall that a friend gave me for Christmas, and it was great to have cinnamon-y smells permeating my house throughout the holidays, without the actual effort of cooking.

The Piece by Piece warmer plugs into the wall via electrical cord, so you'll need a spot where you can tuck that out of the way. But it works the same way: Place a cube of wax on the top tray, turn it on and the wax slowly melts, releasing the lovely scent of your choice. When you're done, you can actually pour the melted wax back into the resealable container, so it lasts a really long time. You can buy other “flavors” to use in the same warmer: Currently, we're enjoying the springtime smell of Cucumber Lime.

The Piece by Piece warmer is beautiful and low-key, so it shouldn't clash with any room's décor. We keep ours in the kitchen, but that's more out of a desire to keep it out of the kids' reach. If I can get a shelf built about three inches from the ceiling, I'd love to move it to the living room, because the little openings surrounding the puzzle-piece motif cast a very pretty soft light. (FYI, Billy LOVES the light; goes monkey-poop every time we turn it on.)

I have no “dog in this hunt,” other than the fact that they sent me a free warmer to try out AND they want to give one to YOU!

All you have to do to enter this randomly selected giveaway:

  1. Subscribe to this blog via the little form at the top-right of this page.
  2. Like Scentsy on Facebook.

That's it!

Of course, it'd be a big help if you could post a comment here to let me know you've done those two things, so that I can be sure to give you credit in the giveaway. We'll announce the winner of the randomly selected giveaway on Monday, April 18.

However you decide to show your awareness of autism today – whether it's with a blue bulb or just by holding the hand of the autistic person you love – let your little light shine and let your voice be heard.

Reader Comments

Wooohoo!

I'm in! Autism Awareness that smells good!? Yes, please!! I subscribed and liked...

Done and done!

I have subscribed via email.

Pick me, pick me!

My 5 year old son, 4th child of our 5 is autistic.
I liked Scentsy on FB.

I am now subscribed to LifeIsASpectrum and a follower of Scentsy! Love your blog!

I'm in!

Yay! I love Scentsy!
(AND - I promoted it on the Seminole Sitters fan page!)

I subscribed and like on Facebook!

Sold! Happily subscribed and liked! I so love pretty stuff that smells nice. (AKA things that cover up not-quite-potty-trained aroma)

It's a win-win!!

Thank you guys so much for entering!!

And you can still enter, so anyone who'd like to have this beautiful free warmer to benefit Autism Speaks, jump right in -- up until the deadline :-)

Total 11 comments

bluelight

After I picked Billy up from school today, we went by our local Super-Walmart -- so huge that I think it has its own gravity field -- to pick up a blue lightbulb. In case you haven't heard, Autism Speaks is asking everyone to "Light it Up Blue" tonight, in honor of World Autism Day tomorrow. We're going to put our blue lightbulb in our front porch light.

Anyway, Billy was lounging in the cart, narrating the experience: "Mama is looking at dress-up clothes ... there are a lot of unicycles in this house (bicycles were hanging from the ceiling)...Billy want a unicycle...Billy want 10 unicycles ... Mama is looking at --"

Suddenly, he stopped and pointed.

BILLY: Mama, what are you looking? (His way of asking what I'm looking at.)

ME: I'm looking for a blue lightbulb. Here we are. Let's get this one. (And I put it in the cart.)

BILLY: Mama, what are you putting?

ME: I'm putting the blue lightbulb in the cart.

BILLY: Because --- ? (This is how I prompt him when I want him to provide a reason "Why" to something he does!)

ME: (Laughing) BECAUSE ... well ...

Then I stopped laughing. What do I say? I decided to keep it real, nonchalant, to try and make it positive.

ME: I'm buying a blue lightbulb, because when we shine it from our porch tonight, we will be telling everyone I love someone who is autistic. Like you!

BILLY: (Big smile) Like me!

ME: Yes! You are so smart and so beautiful and I want everyone to know. So I will turn on the blue light to say that I love you.

(He seemed to ponder this for a few minutes.)

BILLY: (finally) Mama ... (He seems to be really thinking about his response, thinking so hard it hurts.)

ME: Yes, sweetie?

BILLY: Mama, I love fish.

ME: Well, we'll see if there's a lightbulb for that.

Eric the fish, you strike again!

Reader Comments

Love it! [tear]

My uncle had unicycles, including a six-foot one which he used to ride with my cousin on his shoulders when she was about three...

Hugs,
Wendy

Shine it!!

Shine your light, baby!!

Thank you for sharing that... made me smile. 8)

So Sweet!

That is a very sweet conversation. I wish having that talk came as easy for our family!

Thanks for this post, Amanda. Now I know why my friend and neighbor across the street is floating her blue light. I'm so proud of both of you. Here's to Billy!

Still Swimming?

That fish is still swimming? Get a handful of rice, slap Eric on top, and invite me over for dinner. Problem solved.

Oh that made me tear up a bit and then laugh out loud about the fish. I so love the way they think! We have to go by those darn fish every time we go to Walmart. I'm running out of excuses not to get a couple to fill the empty bowl from the last time we killed fish...er...I mean lovingly took care of them for their entire lives (about 2 days). I hate fish. Hate.

I love that boy!

Isn't there some kind of "electric" fish that lights up in the water? Then again, I don't remember seeing one in Nemo (my only source aquatic knowledge), so maybe I'm wrong. If there is such a thing, then Mama needs to get that fish loving boy one. :)

Total 8 comments

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