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World Autism Awareness Day

2 Apr

Today is World Autism Awareness Day.  This is the day to reflect on people of all ages who are touched by autism.  Wherever they happen to be on the spectrum – whether they are verbal or not, high- or low-functioning – they are important members of society.  They deserve love, respect, admiration for all they have to live with and overcome, and opportunities.  Autism manifests in countless ways.  There are probably as many forms of autism as there are autistic people.  Some auties talk, some don’t.  Some have enough capacity for academic learning to complete high school and go to university, some don’t.  There are auties who are brilliant artists, some who are mathematical whiz-kids, photographers, musicians.  Some become famous.  Some don’t become famous, but manage nevertheless to carve niches for themselves in the communities in which they live.

We had a very good World Autism Awareness Day.  It started with George requesting and wearing a pair of shorts instead of the long pants I had selected for him.  Traditionally, George has a hard time with the transition of seasons.  If he’s used to wearing winter clothing, he doesn’t want summer clothing.  If he is used to shorts and T-shirts, he will not wear winter clothing until he has experienced the freezing cold weather for himself.  So the fact that he transitioned so seamlessly into summer clothing is a big deal indeed.

Once we were all dressed and ready for the day, me, my mother-in-law, and my friend Fran sat at the kitchen table chatting and having a lazy morning.  James was playing with his cars, George was wandering around the room, not really doing anything.  Gradually, we became aware that he was counting while he was wandering.  So far, not really a big deal.  For a long time, George has been rote counting, and even doing mathematical sums, but it’s never really been applied to the real world.  This morning, however, we realized that there was a purpose to his counting.  He was counting how many chairs were in the room, how many tables, how many cups were on the table.  Instead of rote counting, he was counting groups of objects.  He was using the concept of counting for something real.

While I was still celebrating this very meaningful accomplishment, George paused his constant activity to tug at my sleeve.  “Let’s sing O Canada”, he said.  And he started singing our national anthem.  Admittedly, he wasn’t word-perfect, but he did really well for a six-year-old, especially one with autism and limited verbal skills.  He sang sweetly, with lots of heart.  He made me proud to be Canadian, and proud to be his Mom.

Later in the day, we went to the park.  I sat on a bench watching my boys running and playing, I pushed them on a swing and showed James how to go down the fireman’s pole.  I laughed as James grabbed a handful of leaves and dumped them over George’s head, and I smiled when they insisted on holding hands with each other for the walk home.  It was a perfect brotherly moment for the two boys.

And so I wrap up a wonderful day, and I prepare for tomorrow’s 10km race.  I am eagerly looking forward to the race.  It will be a significant and exciting step in my quest to run for autism.