Where have all the manners gone?

Soooo, April is autism awareness month.  I feel like I should acknowledge that but I want to keep this to the point and short.
Many people I meet are divided into 2 groups.

GROUP #1: You’ve seen commercials about how autism is some thief that comes in the night and is the ugliest, scariest thing you can imagine.  The very mention of the word sends chills down your spine.

GROUP #2: Your neighbor’s cousins son has high functioning autism and you think you’re an expert.  And bonus for me, you want to bestow all your knowledge and advice, and more importantly, your judgement,  on me.  Yay!

To group #1: Autism makes life kind of difficult at time.  But my daughter is not a scary ugly monster.  She’s sweet, loving, and the first to give someone a smile.

To group #2: Every situation is different.  And the most valuable gift you can bestow on almost anyone is withholding judgment and keeping your advice to yourself.  A simple smile and greeting will go much further, trust me.

To the world: Where have all your manners gone?!  As my daughter is getting older I’ve seen a shift in the way she is treated by those we meet.  When she was younger it seemed people  either ignored her or passed off odd behaviors more.  (Not always, of course.)
But now she is almost 12 and taller than me.  My Amelia is social, friendly, and loves to say hi to new people.  In fact, if she had her way, she’d probably hug every person she came across.
She loves to run errands with me (depending where we are going, of course.).  Often times, in the grocery store, or wherever, she will stand in the middle of someone’s path and smile at them, say hi.    I’m saddened to say this is very rarely met in a positive way.  And I understand somewhat.  There is a stranger, tall enough to be an adult, with puppets on her hand and big smile on her face, standing directly in your path.  Maybe you are uncomfortable.  I get it.  I even have family members who are uncomfortable with autism.  We rarely see them, or when we do they avoid Amelia and ignore her greeting.  It breaks my heart.  Because you know what you miss?  You miss out on the best, most contagious giggles you’ve every come across.You miss the chance to have THE BEST hug of your life.  You miss the chance to hear her say “Nice to meet you!”    And we only worked about 4 years on that sentence.  Amelia didn’t speak until she was over 6 years old, and I’m talking about one word here or there.  Any language she has now has been due to years of tears and hard work.

So I have  simple request.  If you meet someone who seems different from you, bestow them a gift.  Withhold your judgement and just mind your manners.  Say hi.  Smile.  It won’t hurt, I promise.   (Oh, and adults? Your kids are watching.  When you are uncomfortable and judgmental, your kids will surely be as well.)
Children AND adults with special needs should be treated as what they are.  People.  With feelings.  Every person you meet started out the same, someone’s baby.  Maybe not yours, but that doesn’t mean their feelings matter any less.  So if someone with special needs makes you uncomfortable ask yourself why and figure that crap out.  Because you are being rude to the very group of people who are most likely to accept you exactly how you are, and the first person to give you a hug.

Besides, WHY ON EARTH, would anyone see this smile and not want to return a greeting?!


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