April is Autism Awareness Month. Yet I find autism awareness tough to explain. Most people are aware that autism exists. There are very few people who have not heard the term or who haven’t come into contact with someone who knows someone with autism. The problem is in explaining how Bridget and her friend Zach can be the same age, both have autism yet they are as different as the sun and the moon. The sun and the moon are both stars, after all. Yet they present completely differently.
Bridget is social. Zach has to be prompted to interact.
Zach is starting to pre-read. Bridget is starting to recognize letters.
Bridget is easily distracted. Zach can utter the words “let’s go Friendly’s” for hours without pause.
Zach knows the routine of school. Bridget acts like every day is a brand new experience.
Bridget is affectionate. Zach is affectionate, with prompting.
Zach is verbal without an interpreter. Bridget is verbal if someone is there to translate.
Bridget has an unreasonable fear snow. Zach enjoys the snow.
Zach rarely makes eye contact. Bridget will trap you by her gaze.
Both of Zach and Bridget wander. Both Bridget and Zach think Frozen is the best movie, ever.
Both Zach and Bridget attend special education classes. Both Bridget and Zach are loved by their classmates.
Both Zach’s mom and Bridget’s mom wonders what is autism and what is personality.
Zach and Bridget each have autism, yet their autism is as different as their hair color.
This is where awareness happens. When people begin to realize that autism isn’t easily defined. That when you see a child with autism, you see one aspect of their personality. When you encounter Bridget you will encounter a completely different person than Zach.
Autism doesn’t define our children, it is just one part of their definition.
Just as being a star is just one part of the moon’s definition.