A couple weeks ago, I ran out of my ‘subscribe and save’ bulk diaper order for my nonverbal, not yet potty-trained four year old with autism, so in a bind, ran into Toys R Us to grab some diapers. At the checkout, the cashier asked me, “would you like to donate to autism?” I looked at her quizzically, thinking ‘to autism? HUH?’ and asked her to clarify. She didn’t even know how to answer me, clearly having just recited the line her supervisor had instructed her to say. I looked at the badge on her lapel, only to see that pesky familiar little blue puzzle piece, the iconic logo for Autism Speaks and snapped at her, “ABSOLUTELY NOT!” The look on her face was an interesting mix of shock combined with ‘okay, crazy lady. *eyeroll*,’ and I knew my message was completely lost on her. I left the store feeling helpless and then stopped to check my receipt. Luckily, she forgot to ring up my diapers at the sale price and I smiled, realizing, my work here wasn’t done yet after all.
I got back in line and I know she saw me out of her peripheral vision, with a look this time more of apprehension. Finally my turn, I explained about the diapers and then said, “Hey, I’m really sorry if I snapped at you. I have a son with autism and Autism Speaks is very controversial in the autism community, being the largest autism non-profit in the world, who takes resources and walk-a-thon energy from already strapped families and whose proceeds go mainly to CEO salaries and travel expenses.” She started apologizing to me profusely. I waved my hand at her insisting she stop. “I said, I know you didn’t know.” The problem is, neither do most shoppers who come here. When you ask them to donate to ‘autism’ they of course want to help. At the very least, just make sure you say ‘Autism Speaks’ rather than ‘autism.’ She started pouring out to me that she felt horrible and didn’t want to ask the question at all anymore. I told her to do what she had to do, I didn’t want her to lose her job, but it was good that she knew. We ended with such a positive exchange, and I left the store once again.
So, why did I bother sharing this with you? I am not here to focus on all the shortcomings of Autism Speaks. I want to raise your awareness, this April, Autism Awareness Month, while everyone is passing around ‘light it up blue’ paraphernalia, that you can still use this as an opportunity, as I did in the end (thank goodness, she forgot to ring them up on the sale price otherwise I would’ve totally missed this opportunity!), to educate and teach people with some real, tangible ways how to truly be autism aware! WOOHOO!
- Love EVERYONE!
This does not only mean children with autism. This means people you normally judge. When the cashier first asked me if I wanted to donate, I wasn’t loving her – I was judgmental and angry — and look how far that got me! Let go of your judgments and try loving. The effect is contagious. Have you ever seen ‘Pay it Forward?’ I’ve always loved that movie because it highlights how one positive act is reverberated across the world. I find myself pleasantly surprised when I use love instead of judgment, and how receptive people are. Everyone wants to be loved. And on a practical note – when it comes to autism, it can be a truly powerful tool. A beautiful person commented on one of our blogs last month about how she witnessed a child shrieking in a supermarket while her flustered mother was purchasing some groceries and onlookers were commenting judgmentally that she not be allowed in the store. She helplessly turned to us, Thinking Moms, saying she recognized that the child had autism, but realized that no one else did and she felt there was nothing she could do. Now, this situation has happened to all of us. You know what? There IS something you can do. Next time you see someone struggling or a child screaming, LOVE THEM. Seriously send them major love. When I see this, I actually stop in my tracks now and smile, sending positive energy. If I stand there, with a forlorn depressed look on my face, if that mother happens to turn my way, what message will that send her? She’ll feel like even more of a freakshow than she was probably already feeling. But if you stand there loving her and smiling, she will feel your support. And imagine if the autistic child’s eyes meet yours while you’re doing that, even for a split second? The power in that smile is immeasurable. So take that frown, and turn it upside down! Give your neighbor the benefit of the doubt. We’re all doing the best we absolutely can. This world is so energetic. Practice loving more and I guarantee you will feel more love coming back to you, as well.
2. Become Your Own Personal Autism DETECTIVE
Most people look at children with autism with pity, thinking, ‘they are disabled and we are ‘normal’ ’… how sad’. One of the best ways you can become autism aware, is to actually see how many ways you can LEARN from a child with autism. They don’t need your pity — in fact, they probably can feel it as well, making them wanting to feel even more exclusive and guard themselves from you. Yes, their communication and conventional means for expression are often impaired, along with much else, but they also have many abilities we don’t even know about. I remember watching a video of a Son-Rise Program® that had reached it’s completion after five years after the child had fully recovered, and the child’s volunteers were reflecting on the program. One of them reminisced about how the child’s staring, allowed her to appreciate the simple beauty in dust particles floating in the sunlight for hours. That image has always stuck with me. Learning to slow down, become better listeners, researchers and seeing our children as our teachers rather than creatures we need to train has such a huge benefit. Firstly, our kids will sense it and feel empowered. Children with autism, usually have no control or power in their lives, leaving them to feel helpless. Empowering our kids with love by expressing that we are humbled by them and have so much to learn is a great bridge for communication as well as providing them with more dignity…not to mention the amazing lessons you will find for yourself! Next time you want to look at a child with autism with pity, stop — and try to see what YOU can learn from THEM. Taking their autism as an opportunity for your growth is an attitude that will resonate over and over, creating bridges you never thought possible.
Lastly, to be autism aware, you need to become your own personal advocate. You need to help spread the message of love and hope to everyone you know. Share our blog. Share facts, research. Become an activist and a pioneer in your community. Join local groups. Get a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Donate to a worthy autism organization, that actually gives their proceeds back to families and children or who are researching or advocating for justice and recovery for our children (for a list, see the bottom of the page). Give back. Seek out local autism families in your area, and offer to help them in any way you can, even if it means folding their laundry! Ask them if they’ve ever heard of alternative treatments for autism. Offer them information and resources. Learn how you can clean up your own life from environmental toxins and emotional toxins to become a healthier and more positive person. If you want to make a change in the world in honor and awareness of autism, this is the biggest thing you can do. Pass the message along. JOIN THE REVOLUTION!!
Sending so much love,
Donation Worthy Organisations That Help Our Kids