I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said the article I mentioned in my last post changed my life. Or, at least, it changed the way I interact with my sister and understand others with autism.
So what is the first thing every child with autism wishes you knew?
“I am first and foremost a child — a child with autism. I am not primarily ‘autistic.’ ”
I remember my mom telling the story of sitting in an IEP meeting with Alyssa. As the meeting progressed and my parents and the teachers discussed Alyssa’s disabilities and challenges, Alyssa became noticeably upset. Her head drooped, she focused more on the toy she was playing with, and attempts to elicit a response from her only resulted in outbursts of anger.
On another note, Alyssa is always drawing pictures for people. Recently, one of the ladies at the bank took Alyssa back to her office to show where she displayed Alyssa’s artwork. I wasn’t there, but apparently Alyssa was beaming with joy.
Even with her unique challenges, Alyssa recognizes attitudes towards her and her disability. Yes, she has autistic tendencies. Yes, she has challenges. Yes, she is special. But the most important thing to understand is that she is a person… above and beyond anything a mere ‘label’ could define. In the first story, she was labeled. In the second, she was honored. Both times, she was well aware of the attitudes towards her.
No matter the person’s age (whether a child or an adult), no matter the severity of their ‘disability,’ each and every person is an individual who thinks and feels and learns and grows and loves and bears God’s image in a way unique to themselves. No one else can do all the amazing that person does. No one else can encompass the thoughts and emotions of that individual. No one else can be who that person is. And because they are themselves, not anyone else, they leave a special mark on this world the way no one else can.