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.