Judgements are mindlessly easy to form from dated stereotypes. How comfortable it must be to have formed opinions from age – old, type casts from loose conversations with friends about “an autistic child” they knew or from representations from media released decades ago. Like a comfortable cardigan shrouding you from the current world and current revolution of information available through autism awareness campaigns.
Campaigns which people have fought tirelessly for to help others to learn and grow and change perceptions of Autism. The same old fashioned perceptions you have decided to stand by instead of embracing the challenge to change your thinking.
I have had difficulty understanding the way in which you live since I have never wanted to not learn and embrace something new or to which I don’t understand.
When I started waitressing in my teenage years I was completely unaware of different religions. Being brought up and educated in Catholic schools I had little knowledge of other faiths until I began working with Jewish and Muslim colleagues. I asked questions, I listened and I made life long friends. Likewise as a teacher I researched, attended courses and spoke to the parents and more experienced teachers about any condition, disability or illness facing my pupils. My mind is broader and happier with the knowledge I have learnt about others and will continue doing so throughout my life. What an exciting prospect to have so many different, beautiful people to live alongside and get to know and understand. And yet you don’t feel that way.
For a long time I felt bitterness and anger towards people like yourselves. People who tutted and frowned at my child for being “different” The anger consumed me and I struggled in those first months after his diagnosis and still do at times today. Struggled with the ugly feeling of hate and anger that bubbled inside me towards you. Yet then I look at my children and look at my life and know how much fuller and richer it is for not holding so much bitterness. Mine is fleeting and yours ingrained.
Each day that passes my pride grows for my children. Three children with such unique personalities with a sibling bond which will never be broken. My middle son’s first year in reception, has been a roller-coaster of emotions but mostly pride. To know he has made friends and formed positive bonds with adults and children alike is something I could never have imagined this time last year. Simple tasks such as putting his own shoes on are monumental to our journey, where they may be so simple to you and your own. His happiness shines from his face and he is becoming so comfortable within himself and that makes my heart swell with pride, as happiness is all I have ever wanted for all of my children.
My daughter, his older sister, embodies all of the attributes I wish for you. An accepting, child with so much knowledge of her brothers autism and the ability to take on new information and learn from it. A child who will go far with her ability to accept others and treat everybody she meets with respect and understanding.
Perhaps one day you will understand the implications your own ignorance will have on your own offspring or those close to you. However, although you may have been able to shut yourself away from topics you feel uncomfortable hearing about, awarenesses you do not wish to understand, the next generations will be taught this at school. Awareness of LGBT, awareness of race, religion and gender equality and awareness of disabilities. The world is changing it is 2019 and we are living together. There is no seperation for those of us wanting to embrace acceptance. An exciting future where everybody is beginning to make changes and change perceptions. Will you be left behind?
As a teacher I predominantly taught year 4. A book I read as a child, Roald Dahl the Twits stayed with me forever. A specific part of it I had printed and referred to regularly throughout my teaching:
“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
Ignorance may be bliss to some but to me it is ugliness and an ugliness that changes a person quite dramatically in a world where that ignorance is set to become a minority.
I will continue to fight tirelessly for autism awareness. For people to understand autism and not just the hard times my son and I face but the joy he also brings and the fulfilment that is being brought to his life. Members of the public, family members and parents who want to know more about autism and more about our lives and situations are people I want in our life. People who want to learn and talk and change perceptions.
I’m not foolish to think I won’t come across more like the many ignorant humans I have met and have upset me since my son’s diagnosis but I am excited about our future. Hopeful in the knowledge that as the years progress you will become far and few with the rise of awareness and the abandonment and change of the tired opinions you still hold dear.
The world is changing. Embrace it.
The Cockney in the Countryside