Updated: Sep 17, 2021
“Happy Autism Awareness Month???” What’s so happy about it? My child has autism. Should I be happy about that? I can’t begin to say how many times I have heard this comment. Why are people so cheerful when they say, “Happy Autism
Awareness Month!” I silently asked myself that question so many times when people would drop this comment during the month of April, but instead I politely responded with a simple “Thank you. “In October I have never heard anyone say, Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” No, autism in no way is comparable to cancer, but just the same it’s a medical health condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. For the life of me I just couldn’t figure that one out.
I feel confident that most parents in the world would prefer their child not to have an autism diagnosis. I can’t imagine any parent that wouldn’t want to see their child achieve all the goals and milestones that life has to offer along with their typical peers. Many of these children go one to meet these mild stones and reach their maximal potential, but not without a compilation of necessary services to assist them, which is outside of the norm.
Although my son is a blessing and I love him with all my heart, learning that my child was on the autism spectrum was a dark day in my life. In an instant it distorted all the dreams and visions that I had for my son to have a “normal” future. I wanted him to have the same opportunities that every “typical “child had, but now he was diagnosed with autism. This in no way meant that I couldn’t provide my son with all the means of a normal life, however depending on his functional ability, the question is what a “normal” life would look like for him.
Knowing that every child with autism has their own unique atypical characteristics, I waited anxiously to discover my child’s different ability. Then I realized he had significant aggressive behavior challenges which made him stand out from the others. This was even more devastating than the autism diagnosis because my son was high functioning, but his behavior interfered with everything he could possibly accomplish.
As a mom with an African American teenage son with a diagnosis of autism complicated by significant aggressive behaviors, we all know this is a dangerous cocktail combination. Every parent with a child with autism faces their own unique challenges. Nothing about it adds up to anything happy, so again I ask, what makes people say, “Happy Autism Awareness Month?”
I’m just going to be real, there is nothing happy about any medical diagnosis, even when the word awareness is attached to it. The more up-to-date phrase is “Autism Acceptance Month,” which not only brings awareness to the diagnosis, but it’s a celebration that promotes acceptance of people living with autism. My only question is why does accepting a particular group of people have to be limited to one month. Shouldn’t these individuals as well as everyone be accepted every day regardless of their different ability no matter what month?
Truthfully, people are people and there are many who are aware of autism, but they are heartless and remain ignorant about the diagnosis. I believe a better phrase would be “Happy Autism Training Month,” and if it were up to me, it would be a mandatory training. Knowledge is powerful and this phrase goes far beyond making people aware and just saying accept individuals with this diagnosis. It would provide training about the sensitivities of these individuals, how to appropriately interact with them, and how to include people with autism in everyday situations. Now that would be something to be happy about.