Autism has a bad rap with families and marriages. Pulling them apart. The stress, the constant worrying, the lack of time with your spouse and other children. The focus becomes your affected child and there is no time for you and forget about your partner. I thought my marriage was strong. It wasn't strong enough.
Inclusion is held up as the ideal learning environment, and rightly so. Successful integration is possible, yet it doesn't magically happen when you throw a child with high-functioning autism into a class of 20+ children, cross your fingers and hope for the best. In many cases, though, in schools across the country, this is exactly what is being passed off as inclusion.
The problem is that an ASD is a permanent neurological disorder; it doesn't go away, but rather confirms itself over time. As parents of children with special needs, we each have to find our path. Over time, we all find our way. For me this was, and continues to be, a lesson in acceptance and redefining my values.
While watching the Sochi Olympics this past February I was blown away by the prowess of these young athletes defying the laws of gravity, and surprising me at every turn. Then one night I thought to myself that actually, our lives as parents with autistic children are kind of the same. Except we don't win a medal at the end.
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, and April is World Autism Awareness month. Unfortunately, it's no longer uncommon for most of us to know families struggling just to keep up with the day-to-day tasks required of them because they have a child with autism. Here's how you -- as a family member, friend, neighbour or even just as a friendly acquaintance or concerned citizen -- can help families affected by autism.
The thought of teaching my son Emilio to say "I'm sorry" in an effort to build and develop more empathy never crossed my mind. That's the reality of raising children with non-verbal autism; their parents are concentrating on having eye contact with their child; they are working on communication skills so they can verbalize their basic needs like "I want water".