I have never been a huge fan of the word aware. The term itself is a copout, really, claiming the basest level of understanding. I am aware I have a shopping addiction. Terrific. Now what? The educator in me would prefer awareness to sit lower than comprehension, even lower than knowledge within that famous hierarchy of learning.
I believe the act of claiming awareness in order to make oneself feel sufficiently enlightened, wise, or in-the-know is, well, TIRED. Way overplayed. One of the finest qualities an individual can possess, in my humble opinion, is the admission of unacquaintance. This person is neither blind to nor unconcerned about a particular topic, just unknowing. And to her advantage, is most open to becoming one of the learned. She is the individual with whom I’d happily spend my precious time imparting what little I know about autism. I invite our ignorance to lead to “bliss” (over a bottle of red) (about which we know nada).
Just admit your brain is foggy when it comes to the topic of autism, and you’re instantly my kind of people. Then, with your permission of course, we’ll bet against awareness and RAISE it with a help of just a few replacement “A” words I hear apply to autism. Then again, what do I know? You ready?
The autism community* is likely done with the disabling term awareness and is in desperate need of your acceptance, aid, action, advocacy, activism, abilities, academics, accessibility, advice, affirmation, affection, allegiance, anchor, assets (yes I mean the financial kind), and assurance. Why? Because
individuals with autism can be anxious and appear antisocial, but they also are able, accepting, adaptable, admirable, adventurous, affable, ageless, alluring, analytical, animated, approachable, appealing, articulate, athletic, autonomous, available, average (yeay!), and adorable (duh).
Feeling absolved of that sin I call unadulterated awareness yet? Good!
*I define the autism community to include 1 in 44 awesome people along with their parents, brothers, sisters, pets, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, neighbors, friends, the UPS driver (often a friend), the bus driver, the wheels on the bus, teachers, therapists, spouses to their teachers and therapists, friends of parents, friends of brothers, friends of sisters…oh boy this is one ample assortment!
Chances are, you’re acquainted with someone in the above-mentioned description. And every single one begs you to bring more than just your “A” game.
Armchair warriors need not apply.
Awareness is not enough.
April is not enough. Please act.
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Originally posted April, 2017. Edited for statistics.
For a day in the life of autism across the spectrum, follow The Disorderly Blondes Autism Podcast.
Kristi Vannatta is a South Florida mom to two boys, ages 14 and 17. In her infinite spare time (ha!) she runs Puzzle Peace Now, a nonprofit that raises money to send children with special needs to summer camp. You can listen to her uncensored podcast here.