Thursday, April 02, 2015

I'm fully aware of autism, thanks very much...

International Autism Awareness Day. Yep. Check. Am I wearing blue? Heck no! My son would have a fit! My contrary teen on the spectrum HATES the color blue and all things "Autism Speaks." (You wave a blue light bulb or puzzle piece in his direction and I can't be responsible for your safety. Be warned!)

We've had a couple of recent discussions about "Autism Awareness Month" and all the hoopla going on in his school. He has described to me (in very inappropriate and colorful language) the posters, shirts and activities going on around him. He did NOT appreciate the "art" project he was forced to do involving a ribbon covered in puzzle pieces. I mean, seriously? You are making the autistic kids do an autism awareness project?! REALLY?! How stupid is that! Like THEY aren't fully aware. Duh.

Two favorite moments from these discussions:

  • The moment when he blurted out his feelings about a certain poster in the hall that says "Does your child have Autism Spectral Disorder?" It was designed by a kid. Did you notice the problem? Tyler did. "What the hell is autism spectral disorder? Where you think you are haunted by dead autistic kids?!?!" His observation came at the rapid-fire rate that is Tyler's normal mode of communication and I about fell off my chair laughing. 
  • The other moment was when Tyler snatched a blue sheet of paper off my desk that was printed with the t-shirt design contest his old school was running. Design an Autism Awareness Month shirt. "Let me do that! I have the perfect one!" Max instantly objected to Tyler using HIS blue form, so Tyler took a blank sheet of paper and in about 60 seconds he'd sketched his own shirt design. The "shirt" was wildly inappropriate, of course. It contained a certain 4-letter word starting with F and a drawing of a hand with the middle finger pointing upward and the instructions that this be a blue shirt with white letters. You know, because...awareness. *facepalm* yes, but I was really impressed at the level of art talent in his sketch! 60 seconds and he'd done a perfect line-art drawing of a shirt and a hand/finger with legible text. He really DOES have artistic talent, but has no desire to utilize it. Sad.
No, I won't be posting a scan of his shirt design. It's very very inappropriate. But that brings me back to the point I'm trying to make with this post. This awareness month hoopla is rather painful for those of us who struggle with autism every day and particularly painful for my ASD teen. See, I think, like your average teen, he is struggling with self-identity right now. There is a particular autistic teen in his school that is, erm, highly noticeable? He loudly stims in the hallways and sometimes escapes from his aids and randomly shows up in other classrooms while wearing underwear on his head or some other unusual behavior. 

Tyler doesn't approve. He doesn't like making a spectacle out of himself (unless he feels he needs to take a stand, then he will loudly protest.) He doesn't want anyone to think that he and this boy have anything in common. He finds the "autistic" label embarrassing and maybe inaccurate. 7th and 8th grade is a really hard time under normal circumstances. Imagine you have something about you that makes you different when you don't want to BE different. He won't admit to that if you ask him directly. He will tell you different is good. Better to be different than one of the boring sheep that follow the herd. 

Ah that lovely teen attitude coupled with ADHD, ASD, sleep disorder, anxiety and depression. We are having fun. Not. We are wearing blue. Not. I take the few moments of levity and cherish them, because they are links in my mom armor that help me survive another day. 

Please consider lending your support to organizations that provide services and support directly to people with autism and their families. Like local charities that provide help, training, and job opportunities are very important. Flashy awareness campaigns and sales of things that are blue only benefit that big corporate entity, typically, and not any actual autistic people.

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