Any family that has lived with autism is grateful that in recent years April has become Autism Awareness Month.
I wish I could say that as time moves on, the challenges become less complicated and easier to manage, but that is not the reality. I suppose if I could say anything appropriate for print, it would be in regards to the many times through the years people would come up to me and remark, "I saw your son," to which I would reply, "Did you speak to him?" or "Did you offer him a ride?" and the reply would be, "Well, no." I knew then that they did not see my son; they saw a developmentally disabled person having a diagnosis they did not understand and were afraid to approach him.
Fear is a liar. Look at the person, not the disability, and for heaven's sake, if you haven't the grace to say something positive, don't say anything.
I am submitting a printed copy of a letter written by my son to me several years ago while he was attending a residential school for special needs students. It is the least graphic and least painful of his letters from that time in his life and gives a glimpse of what students and patients with autism experience. Second entry, Oct. 20, 1998:
"To sum it up, I'd say today was a good day. Last night I was excited about the weekend pass. I still do not know what Dr. Sam thought, even though I talked to him. I noticed there was a morning meeting today. I wonder what they said about me. I'm still nervous. I don't know what the doctor will say. I do so much want to go home for the weekend. Sadly, Dr. Sam thinks I put those marks on me. I told him that I stand before my mom and brother and swear under oath I did not! The staff still gets after me for my tics. Whenever that happens, I go to my room. Well, I can't think of anything else to say. Mom, I miss you and the house. I pray that Dr. Sam approves the home visit. I can't wait to be in my room and see our dogs and my brother. I miss you too. I hope I get the pass so that I can visit you and see my niece and nephew and hug and kiss them because I'm sure they miss me. Well, time to end another day. Good night."