15 April 2017

Autism Awareness - #YourJourneyMyBlog - Leading By Example.

The month of April is best known for the explosion of Easter Bunnies, obscene amounts of chocolate as gifts for children and a magnificent feast to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. To many people April is Easter, They plan, they organise, many months in advance sometimes, Children have the time of their lives, gorging on chocolate, receiving gifts from extended family members, but to me, April is Autism Awareness month.

So to celebrate this, I am going to dedicate my blog for a whole month to families who wish to share their Autism Journey with you. Some of these people have autism themselves, some are autistic parents to autistic children. We have teachers with autistic students and even Bloggers who want share their journey with me, which I am very grateful for.

Why it is important for me to lead by example

It is hard sitting down to write something like this… I want to start with- ‘Hi, my name is Trish and I am autistic’, but it comes off as a bit ‘alcoholics anonymous’.

However, this sort of trying to find ways into a conversation, even a one sided one where I am writing about my experience, my mind jumps to social scripts to ease the opening.

Getting my autism diagnosis as an adult was like a very tight corset had been removed. I could breath, I could move and it was ok. I wasn’t odd or strange, I am autistic (although I may still seem odd and strange to some non-autistic people- but I don’t care about that anymore).

It is like all the Disney movies when the princess is allowed to run and be free. Except I don’t sing (and people wouldn’t want me to!), or run up a hill and dance, nope, I flick and flap and bounce when excited or stressed. I don’t ‘hold’ that all in for the benefit of others at the expense of myself. I am also much less critical of my social fails.

It is very good for me, but I have even more of a responsibility to do this… why?

Because I am a mum to an awesome autistic daughter and I need to teach her it is OK to be herself. It becomes a case of what do I want to teach my child.

Do I want her to be ashamed of her autism, or do I want her to embrace every bit of who she is?

Telling an autistic person not to stim in public or trying to teach them how to make eye contact (I never even knew that was a ‘thing’ until recently), is the same thing as saying they need to change who they are for society to accept them. Which is not accepting them for who they are. This is what leads to self esteem issues and other mental health issues for those on the autistic spectrum.

Instead of trying to make the autistic person fit in, we should be trying to make society a better place to live in, by making sure that society doesn’t just say it embraces difference, but for everyone to actually be happy with other people being who they are in what ever way that presents…. flapping, spinning, hand flicking, tapping, bouncing, jumping, tip toe stretching, clapping, clicking.. it is all normal for an autistic person.

So I lead by example, I don’t stop myself from stimming anymore. Yes I get comments, and if I look at people, I see they are looking for longer than they would normally. However, I have to be the one who teaches my awesome little monkey that it is ok to stim, be who she is, and express her emotions in ways which are natural to her.

So the next time you see someone stimming in public, or your own child stims in public… smile, they are being exactly who they are and are not ashamed either.

You can follow me on Facebook here - Trish's Autism Page

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