My mother shared with me a conversation she had with a close friend about my son Kenden. What the friend said was not surprising nor did it bother me, but I instantly realized that advocacy and education about Autism is still greatly needed. The friend said that we must be sad about Kenden’s diagnosis of Autism. Unfortunately, they are not the first to think and believe his diagnosis is a tragedy. A close friend also suggested that I mourn the loss of the child I thought I would have. I have never responded or addressed those thoughts and suggestions because I knew it was due to lack of awareness. It’s time to stop associating Autism with sorrow and despair and start celebrating, supporting, and uplifting those within the Autism Community.
The Truth About Autism
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. About 1 and 54 children have been identified with ASD. However, Autism is such a broad, unique, and individualized disorder. Each person is unlike another person. This is why I believe we will never be able to give a true description and depiction of Autism. Like Dr. Stephen Shore said, “if you’ve met one person with Autism, you met one person with Autism.”
These unique challenges make parenting an autistic child a one-of-a-kind experience. Truthfully, parenting is the absolute hardest job on the planet. You are responsible for guiding, inspiring, and molding another person. Most times you have no clue who you are, yet you have a little one looking to you for absolutely everything. Now, imagine parenting a special needs child. That’s an entire world of its own. Special needs parenting can be scary, isolating, lonely, and unpredictable. You expect the worst and are on high alert every second of the day. You are constantly fighting and ensuring that your child is receiving the best education and medical care possible. Therefore, trusting and opening up to others is very difficult. Sometimes even nonexistent.
Changing the Narrative About Autism
For years I fell victim to my own negative thoughts, worries, and fears about Kenden’s Autism. I would always explain Kenden and tell people he had Autism first, instead of allowing his personality to shine. I soon realized that I was part of the problem perpetuating why some view Autism as a sad and burdensome disorder. So, I decided to take my mom’s advice and, “change my mindset.” I decided to change my way of thinking, and thus alter the way I speak about my son and his Autism. One of the ways I do this is by sharing Kenden’s story through on blog, “Exploring the Life of Kenden Carter.” The goal for my blog is to inspire parents of autistic children, while making others aware of what Autism really is and how it’s showing up in my son Kenden’s life.
Autism Awareness should never stop. Awareness is the door to understanding, knowledge, and education. It is the key to love, compassion, and kindness. Taking the time to get know someone and understand who they are helps foster connections and develop empathy. As a special needs parent sympathy and mourning isn’t needed because the bible says, “God created mankind in his own image.” God created us, why would I be sad or mourn what God has crafted and perfectly designed? This is why it is so important that all of us work together to ensure that all people truly are are included. We should never want even one piece of the puzzle missing.