Maybe you've just glanced at the byline and thought to yourself, "Who the hell is this? What credentials does she have to write about 'The Age of Autism'?
And you'd be right, too.
I'm a mom and a teacher and I experience autism in my home and also in my job, but I have no more right to explain this new reality to you than does anyone. But here's the kicker, I'm going to try anyway. Stay wth me...
Every single person with autism has an individual experience, as do their families and friends. Here is what I know about my own experience.
Life for me in the 'Age of Autism' is a little like this:
Raising a little girl with autism
Working daily to help her navigate the world
Spending small fortunes on therapies, sensory-tools and diet and nutrition
Worrying daily about her future
Worrying daily that her sister isn't getting a fair shake
Watching her struggle to understand
Watching her hit, bite, scream and otherwise, take her frustration with this world out on her sister, her father and myself.
Laughing every single day at her blunt honesty and endearing confidence
Loving her every single day for her kindness and deep empathy for others.
Teaching children with autism
Working daily to create meaningful lessons and activities
Spending a small fortune on my classroom
Struggling to find out how each child learns and the best way to teach them.
Watching them hit, bite, and scream in frustration
Worrying daily that I am failing them.
Worrying daily that I am failing all the others.
Laughing daily at their exuberance and delight
Loving them daily for all the ways they tell us thank you
That's it, in a serious nutshell, because there are many books that could be filled on the topic of living and working with those on the spectrum.
For you it might be a little more like this:
1 child in every 68 (1 in 45 boys) is diagnosed with autism per the CDC's latest numbers. Those numbers are already a few years old and have been jumping in recent years. In 2008 those numbers were 1-88, in 2005 those numbers were 1-150, and so on.
You may already love someone with autism and if you don't, you likely soon will. Either way, you are going to experience autism in your day to day life because with numbers like that, autism is essentially ubiquitous.
If your children are neurotypical, developing typically, or 'normal' as they used to say, than you'll experience autism through their eyes, as well. They'll have friends, classmates and sometimes family members with autism in their lives. This is their 'normal' (there's that word again).
Your kids will understand that today's classrooms are very diverse which will then transfer to their view of the world. They'll understand that some people struggle with regulating their nervous system and can feel pain at strong sights, smells, sounds, textures and unpredictable situations. They'll understand that some people don't use language to communicate but that they communicate nonetheless. They'll understand that fair does not mean equal and they'll support putting any and all accommodations in place to help anyone that should need them.
Most importantly, they'll help you understand all those things,too.
Ultimately, this generation of kids is pretty damn amazing and you're lucky enough to be raising them.
Grace and Kate's mom. (Shanell)