April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day. In fact, the entire month of April is dedicated to Autism Awareness. However, in my house, we like to spread this all year round. Like, just this morning when my daughter noticed the popcorn, that she eats for breakfast every single morning (see autism and food aversion), came in a different bag and she lost her marbles.
See, kids with autism can be exceptionally ridged and change is extremely hard. To an onlooker she may look like a spoiled brat, crying for what she wants. The truth is, her brain would not allow her to accept that the food that comforts her (one of the seven foods she will eat) had changed. She relies on her routines to make sense of a world that is so foreign to her. She cried, I cried and then everyone was an hour late for their day. Or, like that time last week, in the grocery store, when she wanted the balloons used for a display in the lobby, and I had to say no, of course. I knew what was coming. She is still in a stage where she believes that because she can reach something, she should have it. How cruel was I, to say no! She cried and hit me and tried to get a bite in and we spread awareness all the way to the van. The balloon, along with my groceries, stayed inside the store. I don’t even want to get into the time she decided a few handfuls of my hair may convince me to let her run across the road to the fire truck that struck her fancy.
Don’t get me wrong; it certainly isn’t all bad. Earlier this week my little blonde tornado decided that a certain little old man in the parking lot of Target needed a hug. To be fair, he sure did have anger on his face before she approached him. She figured he might need to meet her service dog, Oakley, too. If he was having a bad day, it was certainly brighter after that. And then, there was the time she stole money from her dad’s wallet (a fiver) and gave it to me to buy the hot tub I had been dreaming about. Most importantly, there will be the time tonight when I tuck her into bed, after the theatrics, of course, when she finally settles and her little hands will grab my face and kiss me goodnight.
Autism affects 1 in 68 and with numbers like that, if you’re not already directly affected, it won’t be long. Take comfort in the fact that many of us have come before you. We are here, working every day, to change the world for children and adults on the spectrum. So, thank you for reading this. Thank you for taking an interest in autism this month and keep your eyes open because you never know when you might get a surprise hug from a little girl and her dog.