I am a special needs mother. My child has disabilities that can't be seen. In an ideal world my child would have no more difficulties than a 'normal' child, but there are times that I wish that Zidanes difficulties were clear for everyone to see. You see, if you don't know me, you may see a terrible mother with a child she often can't manage. You nudge your friend in the supermarket and wonder why she wont take her screaming child off the floor, you roll your eyes when you hear his non-stop babble on public transport and ask why I don't shut him up. You don't understand that touching Zidane during a meltdown (caused by over stimulation) only makes him worse, and you don't see when Zidane hits himself saying "Im stupid - why cant I just shut up?". Even as you might chuckle as you read my update of what Zidane said on any given day, you don't see the little boy that has never been invited to a birthday party, that struggles to understand what his peers comprehend with ease or that is so confused by the world around him that he flits from uncontrollable anger to crying himself to sleep. Even trained professionals don't see the immense burden that we as a family go through living with a child with the difficulties Zidane faces. You didn't see the fight we had to go through to be acknowledged, you don't see the fight we continue to get help from medical professionals and the education system. You insist that my child needs a slap and that it is ME that is the problem. I don't want your sympathy, this is our journey, and in raising my ever so special boy my other children and I have learnt so much about ourselves and the world around us - we are different people - a better family, and at any rate I can give as good as I get, I pity the fool that rolls their eyes during one of Zidanes meltdowns, lol. Now, there ARE children that are spoilt and naughty, and that might have thrown themselves onto the floor in the supermarket because they weren't allowed to have a chocolate bar, im not asking you to become an expert in ADHD, ASD, ODD, GDD or anything else Zidane has to be able to diagnose and differentiate between them, I'm asking for a little tolerance - maybe you can not roll your eyes, or talk loudly about what you would do if it was your child, you only have to endure it for a really short amount of time - spare a thought for the mother and family for whom that is life.
I have a child with autism.
On April 2nd, my Facebook newsfeed was flooded with Autism Awareness posts - and at first, it warmed my heart. Deep down, I love the concept of autism awareness month, and every other awareness month or day for highlighting special needs to the public at large. I loved scrolling through my newsfeed and seeing 'friends' sharing pictures that they probably wouldn't have usually shared. I loved the fact that 'autism' didn't feel like a dirty word, and I didn't feel as though I was alone in talking about the condition that my son and my family live with daily.
But in reality, I hate it. I hate that people believe that clicking 'share' on a photo makes a difference, without them making an effort to educate themselves on what autism is, how it affects people and what they can do to help.
I hate the fact that amongst the 'share this to raise awareness' posts, there is no definite initiative to raise funds to support vulnerable people who desperately need help.
I hate the fact that monumental buildings were 'lit blue' to show support for autism awareness, but inside those buildings, none of the companies showed us an employee with autism, when it is proven that individuals with autism have an abundance of skills, traits and qualifications that are proven to be invaluable to work forces.
I hate the fact that parents and carers walk out of blue lit buildings, still fighting for flexible working hours, in order to earn a viable wage yet still care for their children.
I hate the fact that some of the same people that shared the posts and patted themselves on the backs for doing their part will still look down on the mother in the supermarket that cant control her child, not realising that that child might be having a meltdown.
I hate the talk of tolerance. I tolerate bad smells. My son isn't a bad smell to be covered up. My son won't go away.
Most of all, I hate the fact that autism awareness is not autism acceptance. Being aware that autism exists is not true acceptance of the differences that exist between neuro-typical individuals and those on the autism spectrum and accommodating those differences with respect.
I understand though, that change has to begin somewhere and hope that with each awareness day of each difference that we possess, we come closer to a genuine appreciation of the contributions that we all make towards to the human race.
Happy Autism appreciation month.