Guest Blogger: Mari Nosal M.Ed. CECE
Also Posted on the Mari Nosal Website
Autism Awareness month is upon us. What is awareness all about? I will start by posting a definition of awareness that I have mentioned in another post as well.
According to the Merriam Webster Encyclopedia, awareness means: “knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists.”Knowing that something exists, is not quite the same as fully supporting the issue. An example would be that we may see a homeless individual on the street and feel some empathy for there dilemma. This is an example of awareness of a situation. An individual may express concern for the homeless person’s situation, yet walk by them and go about their day. Rather then walking away, the individual who acts upon their concern and offers the individual a cup of coffee, etc. has learned from their level of awareness and used their knowledge to take action.
This said, I will not focus on whether an individual wears the color blue, which I am aware many individuals connect with Autism Speaks and present negative connotations towards this group. I do not care if an individual is wearing blue, orange, gold, or polka dots for that matter.
We may be surprised and find that the meaning of wearing blue for one individual during autism awareness month may not fit ones preconceived notions. I attempt to look beyond the colors and witness the individual’s actions and character as first and formost.
In not doing so, I would be presenting myself in a judgmental fashion akin with grouping African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, Indians, etc. into a preconceived belief system. Example in point: All Asians are not smart, all Indians are not rich because of casinos, all African Americans do not play basketball, and all Caucasians are not money hungry baseball lovers. I would be acting in an archaic manner and stepping back into another century where prejudice ran rampant in harboring these notions.
In the same fashion that “if we have worked with one autistic individual, we
have worked with all autistic individuals” This is a phrase that I personally abhor as there is a reason it is called the autistic spectrum. It is called a spectrum because there are are many different degrees of autism. This ideology is an example of a preconceived notion as well. Individuals on the autistic spectrum present with varied personalities and needs, just like typically developing individuals do.
To take the idea of preconceived notions a bit further. One may assume a color is symbolic for a group or belief. For another individual, that color may symbolize something totally different. I will continue to favor the color blue because it is symbolic of something very different in my eyes.
For me, the color blue symbolizes promise. As I peer into the sky I see spring approaching after a gray dismal winter. I see a beautiful blue horizon that has taken on a distinctly sharper more vivid hue then was evident in the winter sky. While peering at the Spring sky, I see promise of green grass coming back to life, the return of birds tweeting outside my window.
In conjunction with autism, I connect the blue horizon that extends for miles into the atmosphere and over the ocean with realization that the autistic spectrum knows no boundaries. As the horizon is spread across the whole world in areas where our eyes cannot peer, the autism spectrum holds secrets that we cannot see. It holds the secret to individuals futures that we cannot see.
We do not have a crystal ball. i.e. a child that was not supposed to speak, ends up doing so, a child who’s parents were told to institutionalize them suddenly gains an awareness of their surroundings that no one expected, the child who was not supposed to toilet or self feed independently miraculously does so. As the horizon connects us all together although we are not aware of the activity on the other side of the world, our children have a future path that we are not aware of.
As you can see, blue possesses a different meaning for me then it does for someone else. Lets get to know each other before making judgments. Focus on the advantages of autism awareness month. Breed awareness through your actions not preconceived notions. A color will not change the world but making a difference will. Help a family who is overtired from caring for children on the autism spectrum. Help the family do chores, watch their special needs child so they can get a few hours of uninterrupted rest or enjoy a cup of coffee alone at a restaurant.
Help an adult on the spectrum who cannot drive by giving him a ride to work or elsewhere. Offer to help him or her compose a letter if they struggle with writing skills. Teach a parent support class, offer to teach life skills for free to transitioning young adults. These are mere examples of focusing on not only awareness but acceptance and education for the autism spectrum as well.
Last but not least, do not stop with only making contributions during autism awareness month. Continue helping society to become accepting and a place where all on the spectrum can live, work, love and play 12 months of the year. For families and individuals affected by autism, autism awareness is a 24 – 7 life for them.
The blue lights in the Empire State building, the rivers tinted blue, (or gold or purple for that matter) will dissipate and soon be a memory. Your efforts within the autism community will make a lasting impact however. Parents and individuals affected by autism will still be living with it after April is nothing but a mere memory. As families and individuals live with autism seven days a week, let’s make a pact to stay action oriented seven days a week as well. Keep your focus on the goal. When there is no more blue what will you do?
Thank you and let’s start advocating.
About our Guest Blogger: Mari Nosal M.Ed. CECE is a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have recently published a book with curriculum ideas for inclusive and multi age classrooms.