I am remiss.  It’s the month of May, and I had so many plans for April.
April is Autism Awareness Month, and as many of you know, my eldest daughter Amelia is autistic.
There is something else important about April.  It’s Easter.  The day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, (which means I’m a Mormon) ; )
I love Easter.  We celebrate new life, hope, and focus on our belief and faith in eternal life and families.

On Easter I was thinking alot about our journey with Amelia, and the challenges we’ve faced.
But my mind kept going back to my belief and faith that the day will come when I will see my daughter free from the challenges she faces.  Some may look at her now and not realize that she is autistic.  There is no scarlet letter on her back, no obvious physical deformity, no sign she carries.  That can make situations difficult at times.  There are many occasions when someone will assume she is “acting out” or being “difficult”, not realizing that she is just exhibiting normal behavior for an autistic child.
For example, one day awhile back, we were in Costco waiting in line and Amelia layed down on the concrete floor.  (In a very over-stimulating environment she just wanted to lay on the cool concrete floor and close her eyes and block things out a bit).  I quickly started to get her up but in those few seconds a man in the next line got noticeably annoyed and was glaring at her. (I might add that she wasn’t in his way even.)  I should also add that Amelia noticed this negative look and stance and seemed more bothered by it. 
As I got her up I turned to him and said “she’s not misbehaving, she’s autistic”.
In a snap his demeanor changes and he said “oh. sorry.”  He seemed a bit ashamed and looked away.
Now, I don’t believe autism gives a free ride on bad behavior.  We work VERY hard and diligently with Amelia so she will learn by practice appropriate ways to act in home and in public.  But that takes ALOT of time and practice to master.  I can only hope that by the time she’s an adult I can breathe a little easier when we have outings.
I have been surprised at times when someone has told me that they’ve never met or seen an autistic child or adult.  Really?  The numbers are about 1 in 100 now, so it’s a little hard to believe.  And my standard question I then ask is “when is that last time you saw a child act out in a grocery store?” 
The odds are, it was the last time you there.  And the odds are, on more than one occasion, one of those kids has autism.
So here is my challenge to you.  Whoever you are.  Where ever you are.  For the month of May, every time you go to a store or public place, and feel the urge to be annoyed at someone in your way ask yourself: “what if?” 
What if this person just needs some understanding, some space, or what if I just assume the best?
So quickly we assume the worst in others.  What if  we assume the best?
What if the mother trying to no avail to calm the screaming child is doing her best?  And what if that child screams EVERY time they go into a store?  At what point does she need to just plug thru it and get the groceries?  (Amelia may not have ever done it to this extreme, but I have met other families with autistic kids that face this challenge).    Amelia makes funny noises in stores alot and pulls on my hand quite fiercely, we do get alot of looks for this but we are quite used to it.
I guess what I’m saying is maybe instead of jumping to assumptions we should all take a lesson from Christ and be more kind.  Instead of glaring at a mother who obviously has her hands full loading groceries and an uncooperative child, why not offer to take her cart back for her?   Instead of looking away from someone with an obvious disability, why not smile? Even muster up a cheerful hello?
I suppose I believe, like Anne Frank, that at heart most people really are good.  And I want to be one of those people.  Amelia needs more of those people, we all do.

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  1. Erickson Family says:

    Thank you for this. Over the last few years I have tried really hard to give everyone the benefit of the doubt first. I try to be helpful in situations that are seemingly negative instead of adding to the frustration by being negative myself.

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