Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2 is National World Autism day.

Hello, and welcome to April – the month that is packed full of great blogging opportunities. The one we are going to focus on today is near and dear to my heart. I have always been around people with special needs, from those with delayed learning to an intellectual disability as my mom was a special education (what it was called in her years of teaching) teacher.  Autism is also something I studied in college while receiving my Bachelor’s degree in Social Services. So, all of these things must have been preparing me to be step-mom to a very special boy. 

Jeremy’s 13-year-old who was 10 when I met him, has Autism. Sometimes you forget that he does, but then you are reminded when yet again you have to pause the tv to hear a story about trains, or how something that is happening on the tv is related to random facts he has learned on YouTube. Our sweet boy is this amazing, smart, artistic young man. Something different about Andrew was he has not had the diagnosis long.  He was in the process of being diagnosed when I moved here almost 4 yrs. ago. 

Most children are diagnosed earlier in life.  I have talked to his mom before a few times about how she had wished she would have gotten him diagnosed sooner. I am told there were speech delays, awkward social interactions, difficulty when rules weren’t followed, missing context clues in conversations. While he has social delays still, it seems that in this last year the social delays are becoming less significant. 

Andrew also has ADHD which seems to be a semi-common thing among Autistic people. In fact, in the past, a diagnosis of ADHD was the precursor to an Autism diagnosis.  Children with either condition can have problems focusing. They can be impulsive or have a hard time communicating. They may have trouble with schoolwork and with relationships. Autism spectrum disorders are a series of related developmental disorders that can affect language skills, behavior, social interactions, and the ability to learn. Andrew is unique in some of the ways regarding his ADHD and Autism, but you can directly see how the diagnoses affect him. Andrew struggles with his speech at times, but he talks non-stop on trains and random topics that are out of the left field.  He eats the exact same thing over and over. Andrew likes big things to not change. We have struggled with getting his room clean, and understanding why it’s important to change his clothes.  He does good in school but has to have a lot of encouragement to get his school work done. (As I type this, he is in his room doing work that should have been done weeks ago). We as parents dropped the ball by just assuming he was doing his work. These are some of the ways his diagnoses present themselves. 

Andrew is the light of my life. I’m sure his mom would say the same. There is just something about his sweet smile, kind heart, and his love for life. I often worry about him and his trusting heart or lack of being able to always understand sarcasm and jokes. I remember that the first year he came home one day and his older brother said that there was trouble on the bus. Andrew comes in and I ask him about it. Kids would not let him sit. I wanted to go after the bus driver, the kids on the bus, and the school. Thankfully his parents are a lot more cool-headed than I am. 

For the last three years, I have watched Andrew and seen him have struggles and success. He is in karate and is working on becoming a black belt. Through his program, he is teaching students. I feel like karate has helped him so much. He got really passionate about getting his black belt and it is cute how serious he takes it. He is also in community basketball. This year is his last year for this type of basketball. Seeing how far he has come in skill is also an exciting thing. Since I wasn’t able to go to the games, we would have a full dish session of the game details after the ball games. He is also in band and now jazz band so there is an endless supply of activity around here. We (his parents and I) are so proud of him and his success.

So, there you have it. This is my reason for wanting to bring to attention Autism Awareness Month. There is a lot I am still learning like the symbols for Autism. There is a huge debate on what the “symbol” should be. I did a lot of reading today and as I can best put together the puzzle piece represents a piece missing from the autistic person. Well, that doesn’t sound very nice, does it? No, there is nothing missing in our boy. He is perfect just the way he is. There is a network called Autistic Self Advocacy Network and it is a great website to find out more about autism. ASAN works to make society more inclusive for autistic people. They work to make sure that autistic people are in control of their own lives, and have a say in policies that affect them. ASAN works to protect disability rights and civil rights. They celebrate and promote the autistic community and culture. If you would like to know more, go here. and if you would like to donate you can do that here.

Do you love someone with Autism? Share about your person in the comments. Thank you for reading about mine. Let’s do what we can to celebrate our Autism community this month. XOXO, Evie

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