Look up "Autism" and be prepared to be sucked into a cavernous world of information or (mis)information (sic) out there. Imagine the plight of a parent who receives their first Autism diagnosis. Everything from cognitive impairment to behavioral disorders, communication challenges, to developmental delay and more that could exhaust you in just reading up on the definition, let alone live it every single day of your life. In the midst of all this, April 2nd - is it World Autism Awareness Day ? Autism Acceptance Day ? Autism Day ? Is it really a day to be celebrated - asks one group of parents while there is another group that screams for "acceptance" of their neurodiversity and to be given the due respect for celebration! This makes for a rather challenging decision on what exactly to say or do, when you are scrambling through therapies, bio-med research, doctor's appointments, specialist visits, social groups, and grappling with just the day-to-day of making sure your autistic child gets through another day without much incident. So, who cares about a day, right ? And for someone who knows nothing of Autism, why even bother when you do not know what the right thing to do is - Well, its just another day, right ?
Maybe not ! It is important to have a day to celebrate. Wait, before you ostracize me for wanting to celebrate a "disability" - a "burden" that many are grappling with, let me share with you a slightly different perspective ! The perspective of the Autistic - no I am not autistic, I cannot even begin to imagine what happens in those beautiful minds, but I do know that love and compassion is understood by not the mind but by the heart and from my interactions with so many autistics, adults and children, they are nothing if they are not "All Heart" !!
The Awe-tistic Perspective: For whatever reason, they are born the way they are. They comprehend and understand every feeling that every one of us feels, sometimes at even more exponentially amplified levels that any of us are feeling. To be thought of as being broken, constantly requiring fixing every single day of their lives, by their own loved ones, could be so devastating to the self-image of the individual. Imagine having to live a life of constantly being judged for every single thing you do, and constantly being "redirected" to belong and be accepted by everyone around you - what sort of anxiety and fear would that breed in you? No one is at fault here - not the parents - they are just trying to make sure their child fits in to mainstream society, not the child / individual - they are unable to express the way the world understands them and not the rest of the society, even - because they do not know better.
"So, what is the solution ? What has that got to do with Autism Day ?"
If on this day, April 2nd, which was chosen by some autism advocates 12 years ago - if each of one makes the resolution to not just "wear blue" "light it up blue" or "aware" by sharing autism awareness messages - but instead to "Acculturate" and become "Allies" of anyone who is neurodiverse, let alone Autistic, it would indeed be a day of celebration. Acculturation means to bring together two different cultures and form a shared culture of values and understanding. Unlike "Assimiliation" where someone is completely being asked to merge into the dominant culture (neurotypical society), Acculturation requires effort from both worlds to learn and exchange values on how to live and thrive together. This requires not just "Awareness" or "Acceptance" or "Inclusion" but actual "Action to Integrate" those that are "different" into our lives, no matter how daunting it may seem. No one should be walking around or secluding themselves or living in a constant state of fear, anxiety and angst and least of all, our Autistic Children who are so pure that they do not comprehend man-made mental constructs of deception, malice, prejudice, self consciousness, sarcasm, etc. There is so much we can learn from them or should I say we need to unlearn from years of "herd" like thinking. Imagine if no one perceives their "difference" as a "Defect" or "deficiency" and in fact, every one makes an active effort to support each other in communicating in a manner that everyone understands, and if everyone understands that everyone deserves a fighting chance at life and we ought to support each other in thriving together - what a beautiful world that would be.
"You may say I am a dreamer.... but I am not the only one ...."
John Lennon's words echo in my ears as I type this up. It is possible and the time is now. After all, at the end of the day, what matters, is not how many companies you started, how many degrees you earned, how much wealth you amassed or how many people you ruled or how many friends you have or how many parties you hosted, but how many hearts you touched, how many lives you impacted positively, that speaks of you as a human being. So, imagine if we all reached out and made an effort to acculturate- both the neurotypical and the neurodiverse families - We would all realize that it was spelled wrong all along - it is actually, Awe-ti-some ! And a world where we can all live and thrive together, together - what is Not to Celebrate ?!!!!
April 2nd - Let us Make it "World Awetisome Acculturation Day"