When talking about autism, it’s difficult to know what to say and when to say it. The important thing is that we keep talking about it. April 2nd is recognized by the U.N. Foundation as World Autism Awareness Day. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered his personal message about autism in honor of this day:
“This international attention is essential to address stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate support structures. Now is the time to work for a more inclusive society, highlight the talents of affected people and ensure opportunities for them to realize their potential. “ At Johnson & Johnson, we realize that dealing with autism is a very personal experience so we invited mom blogger, Jessica Watson, mother of a teenaged daughter with autism, to share some of her moments of challenge and triumph.
My daughter is 17 years 8 months. We’ve been living with autism for exactly 17 of those years. I knew her childhood would not fit neatly into the lines of a baby book since the day she could sit upright. When she was young the reminders were right in front of me…
children talking in full sentences,
preschool advertisements I did not need,
the furrowed brow of our hundredth specialist.
The weight of her diagnosis, the uncertainty of her future, filled me with a nervous energy that was perpetually exhausting. I shrugged off that weight until I stood taller, more certain of who she was, a tiny bit comfortable with an unknown future.
And then the future was now.
We are here, heading to adulthood and I know.
I am certain that we don’t need the college financial aid application that just came in the mail. We will not be making plans for driver’s education after school and I can delete every email reminder for ACT prep.
I also know that I should be okay with all of this. My daughter is a happy, confident teenager who has made amazing progress. I tell myself this every time I am given a reminder of what isn’t. But sometimes I am surprised at that familiar sting, how quickly it can return.
I drop the latest college information flyer into the trash just as swiftly as the preschool roundup advertisement that mistakenly arrived 15 years ago. We are still headed in our own direction, they have the wrong address once again. The sound of ripping another unnecessary reminder is just as satisfying as it has always been.
I head upstairs and stop my daughter’s chair as she spins, her head tilted as she smiles. I hug her because she will let me and I need what only she can give…
a reminder that life is fine just as it is.
For more information and resources about autism, Jessica recommends Autism Society as a starting point. We also suggest checking out Autism Speaks, the largest advocacy group in the world devoted to autism and offering significant support to April’s Autism Awareness Month.
Jessica Watson is a mom to five, four in her arms and one in her heart. You can find her wearing her heart on her sleeve at her personal blogFour Plus an Angel, oversharing on Twitter and Facebook, and pretending she has free time on Pinterest.