It’s April Addie! It’s the time of year when we acknowledge the month for Autism Awareness (April) and particularly April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day (raising awareness internationally for Autism Spectrum Disorders.)
While April is very special to our family and to the autism community, it’s important to remember that for those of us on this journey, raising awareness is not penciled in on the calendar for one day or month, but actually 365 days a year - for life.
I’ve been asked a few times - how we would be celebrating autism this month? While I know it was probably intended different in the delivery of the question, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this, and it got me thinking. Interesting question - celebrate? Why celebrate something that can truly makes life so challenging? I’d be lying if I said any part of this journey was easy. It’s not. It’s hard, loud, frustrating, emotionally draining. One might think it’s a one-way ticket to being angry, tired and bitter. While tired yes, angry and bitter do nothing for you so why feed into that? With more than our fair share of life challenges, there are many many positives! Our journey is a blessing and of course so are you my dear!
Life is all about perspective Addie. In between the challenges, we experience some of the greatest love and rewards being unveiled. We get to bear witness to the smallest of accomplishments that can make our hearts overflow with joy, because we know just what it took to get there. This journey itself has lead us to an awakening of the importance of life, love, and understanding and down a path of advocating for such. Just because you are different, doesn’t make you less. You’ll always have plenty of differences, but there’s still our similarities where we all want to live fulfilling lives and be active contributing members within our communities. Every single person is born with unique gifts to share, including you Addie. So, no we are not celebrating your autism per say, but we will celebrate the absolutely amazing person you are who just happens to be living with the challenges of autism.
I can honestly tell you when we decided to start a family years ago we never thought we’d have reason to be part of any list of statistics one day, but here we are. The NC Autism Society states that 1 in 59 8yr old school children (primarily boys being nearly 5 times more likely than girls) are diagnosed with autism each year. There are more than 1.5 million Americans (children and adults) that have ASD today, 65,000+ individuals living in NC alone. Kind of crazy to think, right?! You’d be hard pressed these days to find someone who doesn’t know somebody affected by autism. So, if as a world we use April to increase our efforts of advocating for more research and acceptance, then we’ll gladly jump on board! You see Addie, if one person learns something new about autism this month then that’s a success in my book. Small victories are still victories.
Lucky for us, living where we do, there are plenty of sensory friendly events being hosted around town for this month! Being our spring break from school was this week as well, April 2 we decided to take a drive and head out to join the NC Autism Society at Camp Royall for a day of fun created with our autism community in mind. Like any new adventure we “hoped” for fun, but remember in our little autism world everything is predictably unpredictable, so fingers crossed.
4 out of 5 OTOD members ready (daddy had to work), let’s do this!
The 30-minute car ride proved to be tougher than we would’ve thought. You were unfamiliar with your surroundings and started panicking, resulting in crying and sobbing your ABC’s the whole way there. It’s accurate to say that you’re not a fan of surprises ;). Lucky for us the bounce houses were in plain view upon arriving and only then did you finally believe us that we were in fact really going to play and have fun. SADdie to GLADdie – check!
First up was registration where we were given a map of the events spread out on this expansive property. Your one tracked mind was now only focused on jumping, repeating (no less than 15 times) “a jump, jump, jump?” Figuring I had time to check out the map while you were jumping, off to the bounce houses we went.
Being located in a very large sunny field had me immediately regretting my clothing choice of jeans for the day. Holy Heatwave Batman! Didn’t we have snow last week?! After happily jumping for a solid 10 minutes, cheeks officially flushed, and map memorized you were ready to move on. We went on to enjoy lunch, some basketball, face painting (Clara & Gabe did anyway), a hay ride (minus the hay- hmm), rope climbing, and whole lot of trail walking.
Having done everything but ziplining and a boat ride (and I was now carrying all 70lbs of you), we were all sun kissed (mommy fail on the sunscreen) and tuckered out. Having had a successful predictably unpredictable fun day we headed out for some much-needed air conditioning and ice-cold slushies. World Autism Awareness Day 2018 in the books!
So, my sweet baby girl, we didn’t celebrate autism, but we did celebrate how truly remarkable you have proven to be with such challenges living this unpredictable life with a day of fun. Autism may never have been the journey we planned on, but we sure do love you as our little tour guide. You’re teaching us and this world amazing things every single day.
I love you.