Friday, 6 April 2012

Autism Awareness

I realized a few days ago that I forgot that I wanted to do a post on April 2 in support of International Autism Awareness Day (World Autism Day).  There are now so many wonderful Nations that are supporting this day (and April is Autism Awareness month Internationally, it is October for Awareness in Canada) and different Nations light up buildings and monuments with blue lights (light it up blue) in support of Awareness.   The CN Tower participated this year so it is my goal to get Calgary Tower in on it for next year (in my spare time).  Mayor Nenshi, any chance you're reading this??

1 in 70 of our boys worldwide with be diagnosed with Autism (1 in 110 girls), that is shocking to me. 1 in 70.  I don't have the time to even start hypothesizing this one or letting you know what my ideas are that is for a different blog!

Now the truth to the post is that I wanted to shout out how blessed I am to have a child with Autism, truly blessed.  Torin is a light like no other in our lives and any of the lives he touches.  He is such a sweet, loving, unique and kind boy who just happens to have Autism.  Torin has Autism, he is not 'Autistic' or defined by having this disorder.  There is so much misconception in our society about Autism that it still shocks me.  "Autism, what's that?"  Wha?!  Granted before Torin was diagnosed I didn't know all that much about Autism but I surely knew what it at least was.  I also have a VERY clear memory of watching Jenny McCarthy on Oprah telling her story of her son Evan and looking at my sweet baby Torin (who was around a year old) and thinking, I'm SO glad that I don't have a child with that.  Gee, thanks Murphy!  That just the point though, you don't know what you are going to get when you have a child!  I often think of doing a separate blog on raising a son with Autism but then I think I would also have to do a blog now of raising a typical child smooshed between two special needs brothers!  :)

I have had all kinds of comments from people when they find out about Torin's diagnosis ranging from "Are you sure? He doesn't seem Autistic!" to, "Well at least you are lucky he is high functioning!".  What the heck were they (whomever 'they' are) thinking when the term 'high functioning' came to be?  What does that mean?  If I drive a car and you don't does that make me a higher functioning individual than you?  Hmm.  Yes, Torin can carry on a conversation (mostly with adults and especially if it is about elevators or phones) and yes, he attends a 'typical' school with 'typical' peers but the term 'high functioning' is just ridiculous.  We try so hard to teach our kids to blend into our typical society but in reality it is not at all what our lives are like.  Torin might not be rocking in a corner or banging his head against a wall but he still is a very unique individual.  I can't say I've met too many other people who have their 7 yr olds trolling YouTube for elevator videos for hours on end or different Websites for Panasonic Phones (it's the very best brand for a reason that alludes me still).  It is who he is and why he touches so many lives.  People are struck when they meet Torin and fall in love with him. He is charismatic in such a wonderful, positive way.  He might not be able to figure out why kids do what they do (I mean have you ever watched kids play?  They change direction of their play randomly!) or have the ability to successfully communicate all his needs without having a breakdown but he is a very 'functional' kiddo with a disorder.

The world at large needs a better understanding of these kids since we are producing them at an alarming rate now (the book I started is sadly on the very far back burner for now).  Just know, like any typical kids, none of these kids are the same, they all have different needs and issues.  So please note just because you may know a child with Autism you still may not have a huge understanding of Autism.  The worst thing we can do in life is make assumptions!

If anyone had told me 7 years ago that I would be a parent with two special needs kids I would have told them they were crazy that I couldn't be that parent,  I'm not qualified!  Of course if someone told me I was going to be crazy enough to have three boys, well...!  I can't imagine life any other way now.  I am thankful for all three of my boys as they all bring light and joy to my life in their individual ways.  I guess that is partly why Mike and I can remain 'less' (?) freaked out about the 'unknown' that is Braeden.  We feel at least partly equipped to deal with Braeden's needs as they arise.  One huge positive is that I know the funding that is available and how to access it now! 

I always thought it took an extraordinary individual to work with or raise special needs kids, all it really takes is love.  I'm not saying my life is easy, it certainly is not but it is the life that I've been given and we just make the most of it.  There are many days that I wish for a crystal ball but in many ways I don't think I want to see my future.  I want to continue to live my life on a day-to-day basis and continue to be amazed by all three of my children and the unadulterated J-O-Y they give me.

Some links if you are interested:
Autism Society of Canada
Autism Canada
Autism Speaks
Autism Awareness


Dana Swystun said...

Hi Lia,

I LOVE your blog. I work with children with disabilities and have a brother with cerebral palsy. You sound like a wonderful mother and I wish you all the best with your baby boy Braeden and your other boys at home!

Keep smiling =)

Lia said...

Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to read the blog! I don't believe it is a coincidence that people with siblings with special needs end up working with others with needs as well! Thank you for reminding me that my middle 'typical' guy will get the best of both worlds!

All the best!

Dana Swystun said...

Hey Lia,

You 'typical' son will go through periods of gratitude and questioning. I for one did.

As I reached my teenage years I spent a lot of time asking, "why me?". Not to anyone directly but just inside. Sometime I felt it was "unfair".

But once I had gone through that I guess you could call it grieving period I realized I wouldn't be who I am today without my brother. He has showed me more than I could have learned any other way.

I am just finishing a BSc in Psychology at U of C (3rd year), then am looking towards nursing or a masters in Psychology. I want to work with kids with disabilities the rest of my life. I am truly happy when I am around them! Kids are so inspiring!

I volunteer at the Children's hospital, but saw your story on blood donating in the news. When is your next blood drive? I'd love to partake.

Stay strong! The children's is a great place for him to be (from a medical standpoint)!

Lia said...

Dana, You sound like a pretty fantastic individual yourself! Do you ever volunteer on Unit 2? We'd love to have you at our next Blood Drive, it is on May 26th at the downtown locale. If you send me an email I can send you any info you might need (