I am an avid “treasure” hunter on the beach. I love broken shells (ones animals can’t reuse), rocks of all shapes, colors and sizes, twigs that are smooth, holey and bleached by the sun, and glass that has been battered by time in the waves. At a very popular beach, I decided to walk out to where the dangerous waves were, and turn. I had an inkling that there was a cove behind a certain area, and I was right. Since it was early morning (5 am), I was able to walk into this secret cove and wander around briefly (before the tide came in). In with the black and smooth rocks…was this beautiful piece of glass. It looked like an emerald.
If I were to show this piece of glass to a stranger, their reaction may be; “what do you want me to do with it?” And when I ask them what it is, they might reply; “a piece of glass?” Now take that stranger out of the city and put them on the beach. Now ask the same question, and their face would probably be sporting a smile and their reply might be; “oh, you found a piece of glass.” Take it a step further. Take that same stranger and turn them into an avid glass collector, and ask the same question; what is it? The answer will come with smiles and a reach of the hand as they say “What a beautiful piece of glass! It’s so perfectly round and its completely smooth. Just look at the coloring! I love it! Where did you find it?”
When you first tell someone that your child has Autism, their reaction is usually a shrink in the face, maybe a fidget on the legs, and the word “oh.” To a person on the outside, who has no idea what Autism is, you have just shown them that beautiful piece of glass. People carry with them misconceptions, untrue “facts”, rumors, preconceived emotions, and ignorance. When they hear the word “Autism”, all of these things come to their mind. Things they’ve heard, read, or been told. And of course, not all of these things will be true. It’s our job, as parents of children with Autism, to educate other people about Autism. It’s our job to know as much as we can about the subject and research the CRAP out of it. That way, people that carry with them, misconceptions, thoughts and feelings, can be told the truth. But even then, it’s hard to break that “ignorance” shell. Which is why I propose that instead of calling it Autism, tell someone that your child suffers from “a genetic abundance of awesomeness.” Not only will this take the other person by surprise, but it will also ease your own mind a little. It’s also a term that doesn’t have a stigma associated with it. The person will likely laugh and you can begin from there about all of your child’s special attributes.
People think that Autism is a deficit, a genetic “defect”. But why? They sense things in a way that other people can’t. They hear things much easier than other people do. They feel things around them that we can’t, such as the extreme softness or smoothness of a shirt. Even their sense of taste and smell can be sensitive. That isn’t a deficit, that’s an abundance. There is more information going into their bodies than information coming out, and that’s what people notice. It isn’t all the beauty that our children can sense, it’s their lack of communication about it that upsets people. If people stopped to notice how magical the world can be when you take the time to Sense all that is around you, maybe people would be happier. Maybe more joy could be seen in the brightness of an apple, the smoothness of its texture, the crunch of the first bite, the sweetness that envelopes your mouth, and the juices that slide down your chin.
Be the glass collector. Your child is not a random piece of glass; your child is a shimmering jewel. Sometimes all it takes for a piece of glass to be seen as treasure, is to give it a new name. In order for people to understand the beauty that is Autism, we have to discard the ignorant garbage that surrounds it. My son doesn’t have Autism; he has a genetic abundance of awesomeness.