Autism Acceptance—How Hard Can It Be?

currency-of-happiness

Photo: Psychologies 

It’s been quite some time now that I have been receiving emails from people whom I haven’t met. Some simply wish me well on my journey as a parent to a young adult with Autism. Others are seeking for help and guidance as well as resources in their own areas. It makes me truly happy to be able to give advice and connect to these people. Whenever I answer these mails, it feels like those moments when the early morning sun touches your bare skin. Tingling. Goosebumps. Exciting.

It makes me feel alive, accepted.

On rare occasions, I also receive discombobulating views on what I have written, posts being shared on social media, or about autism in general. Some people just have so much judgment in them that perhaps this is their way of unloading some of the burden. Trust me, it can hurt but not in a way that makes me wallow in self-pity or despair. It hurts me to see other people being hurt and hurting others—and they don’t even realize that they are doing it.

I want to help. Yes, I can be of help!

All these—my website, my social media presence, my book— Living Autism Day By Day: Daily Reflections and Strategies to Give You Hope and Courage, the Be Safe campaign, the symposium and talks, and another book on the works—are meant to be of service to others and to give them hope, that they are not alone. I am not perfect but I do try my best in raising awareness and acceptance of autism.

Whenever someone turns combative in some of my stance, my impression always turn not on annoyance but of understanding and compassion. Pain, fear, and other negative emotions even when hidden in the recesses of our soul always come into the surface. In our effort to hold unto them, we tend to have this strong urge to convince others to feel otherwise, to provoke, to cause pain—in the same way we feel it but just cannot accept it.

Handling emotional “talks” even with people we don’t personally know can be challenging. Aside from not really knowing their situation and individual behavior, cultural and emotional tendencies, people will always hold on to their judgment as final and non-negotiable. I fully understand how some people felt strongly against vaccine, medical cannabis, research, clinical trials, etc. I also understand how some felt totally in agreement of all these. The virtue of autism acceptance is for everyone to be accepted, no matter which side of the fence you are on. It is about understanding each and everyone’s struggle.

Whenever I feel being pushed and pulled in two opposing directions, I always remember Johnny’s words to me—“Everybody thinks. Not just in the same way at times.” I believe I can never make people be what I want them to be or to believe in what I believe in. I cannot also decide what is best for them. I can only choose for myself, for my son (if he asks me to) or for my family. All things else, the universe is so accepting, so tolerant, so happy in its own orbit. So, why can’t we be?

Teaching My Son With Autism to Believe in Himself

John Zipline Fun

Good self-esteem is an almost impossible ordeal for people with autism. I get that. These kids, no matter how brilliant they may be, are always placed on the sidelines. How many times have we heard these lines?

The boy is brilliant but..

The girl should have been in this and that but..

The autistic boy..

The girl with autism have shown..

Yes, it’s a reality that many parents with kids on the spectrum have to contend with. But like any other parents out there, I also want to make sure that my son’s self-esteem is developed to ensure a foundation for his future. In the hope that regardless of what label people may give him, his foundation about his being will be intact.

The concept of good self-esteem is grounded on acceptance—and we, as parents, are the very anchor for that. We need to accept them for who they are to truly allow them to develop a positive sense of themselves. In all essence, self-esteem is built upon the concept of realistic and sincere praise. And contrary to popular belief, many kids with autism experience empathy more than they show it. They can sense when someone is being sincere or not. They can process feelings and actions, albeit slower in some cases, but the idea is that they know when we are being true with our words and actions toward them.

As a parent, helping my son realize his potential amid the limits set to him by society is one of my life goals. Being his mother, I felt that I am the primary influence on how he feels about himself and his self-esteem. It is not easy though having known his vulnerabilities and quirkiness but, I know this must be done at the earliest time possible to ensure that he will grow up sure of himself.

So, how does one develop positive self-esteem in a child with autism? One, by being there—always! It is one thing to care for a child and another to be truly sincere about it. Sure, we have those days when we feel like yanking our hairs from the roots but reining them in, that’s the real challenge.

By being present, I mean, is being honest of what you feel. When I’m sad or happy or disappointed, I would tell John about it and I believe it created a positive impact to his mind that he, too, can tell the difference of what he feels and be able to communicate it effectively. It made things easier for me as I can somehow address things when he feels like having one of those days.

As always, I discuss the behavior and its consequences to him. Criticizing is the last thing on mind though. I simply tell him over and over again that our choices bring about certain consequences. If he is angry and decides to throw a fit, it could hurt him or me or other people. That he has a choice to tell me that he’s bursting at the seams and don’t know what to do.

It took a lot of efforts though to keep him grounded and more responsible for his choices. Like any normal kid and then teenager with autism, it cannot be helped that there are certain things which he cannot control, feelings that he finds confusing in himself, too. We tried unraveling those feelings one by one, layer by layer. It’s tedious. It’s filled with frustrations but it was well worth it.

Like a personal coach, I also taught my son to focus on his strengths. He loves pizza then, we learn making pizza together. He’s mesmerized with cakes, pies and pastries then, I enrolled him in a baking class. The seas and its creatures fascinate him so off we went to a cruise and had a great time. These and all other efforts are done to tap at his boundless potential without setting any limitations just because of autism.

Other than that, I take time to make him feel appreciated by highlighting his strengths and helping him find ways to go around his limitations. My husband and my two other children are my reinforcements in doing what’s best for John. I believe by making him feel accepted and loved made all the difference.

How about you? Do you also tackle good self-esteem in your household? How do you make your child love, believe in himself?

The Discombobulating World of Autism Research

Photo Credits: Creating Brighter Futures _ Autism Research
Photo Credits: Creating Brighter Futures

It is my daily ritual to sift through various autism research, news and blogs articles to be posted on my social media accounts and, I couldn’t help but marvel at the degree of enthusiasm the medical community has placed in unraveling the cause, origins and what-have-you of Autism. Some even make “color” classifications due to the enormity of the whole spectrum. With one neuroimaging after another, truly the dissection level of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) comes incomparable.

Causes of autism have piled up over the years. First, there’s the “coldness” of a mother’s heart smothering the baby’s sensory impulses leading him to have autism all his life. Then comes the genetic factor only to be left for further research due to inconclusive evidence. Environmental elements have also been targeted like pollution, insecticides, GMO, and so on. Others focus pregnancy-related issues like C-section, drinking folate, and other observations. Recently, there’s also the issue of circumcision among male kids with autism.

Who doesn’t know the vaccine-autism controversy that will forever hound communities across the globe? It is a never-ending debate causing unnecessary rifts among advocates and communities. Even top personalities join in the fray to stress a point creating a fissure among the pro and anti vaxxers.

Far more than this, researchers from top universities across nations had continuously put their focus on dissecting the human brain to look for that teeny-weeny speck of difference between a child with autism and that of a so-called neurotypical kid. Recently, neural pathways of children with autism are being monitored under a microscope to help find answers on the why’s and why not of autism.

Yes, each day when I sift through these autism research articles I am becoming more discombobulated with the emerging causes being thrown my way. Sometimes, it feels a little bit crazy for me to laugh until my insides hurt so much from frustrations over these studies which, as always, are deemed “inconclusive” and needs further research – and each research pierces my heart particularly when kids with autism are always placed in a microscope only to be compared to neurotypicals.

I have no beef with all these autism research, studies, surveys, and so on.  To my understanding, there are parents and families out there who are still groping in the dark for answers and, perhaps, by reading through those explorations and investigations, they will find peace and acceptance in their midst.  So, I’m cool with that hence, I will continue to share them on people’s newsfeeds. This is in the hope that somewhere, somehow some families can heave a sigh of relief.

John making awesome apple pies
John making awesome apple pies

As for me, I have long accepted John as he is. He’ll be turning 18 soon and will technically be an adult. Instead of looking for answers that have eluded me for the last 15 years or so, I am more grounded to the belief that there is a much higher reason on why he has autism. Today, my main concern is ensconced on his future, as an adult – a thriving one at that. With this also comes that fervent hope for more services, workshops, and opportunities to open up for adults on the spectrum noting the fact that we, parents, won’t be around forever.

For now, I will allow myself to be discombobulated with all these autism research clippings. Some days, it just felt so great to have a good laugh until you can’t stop tears from flowing in your eyes.

Adult, Autism and Living On His Own

Me and John
Me and John

 

Each year, we are given statistics on how many hundreds of millions have been spent on autism research. I am happy about that. Yes, so happy for families who up to this time are still groping in the dark on what ifs and what could have been. Though some of the published are downright absurd, I am still grateful for the thought. The sad thing about these studies, however, is that out of the hundreds of millions of dollars, only 1 percent of that is allotted to studying autism in adults.

Every April, the drive for raising autism awareness and, along with it, to raise funds for research also becomes one of the most anticipated events in a full calendar year. Various heritage buildings and attractions joined the Light It Up Blue Campaign. Many are going to runs and walks—and dinner for a cause, sporting events, and so on.  The list is endless.

But as I scroll through all the studies done, I cannot help but feel mixed emotions over the state that adult autism is in. Not that I don’t like the research on finding the cause or exploring new treatments, finding a way to diagnose autism, the biology or anatomy of autism, and so on. I am however, worried about the decline on the attention given to adults with autism.

John at Universal Studio’s
John at Universal Studio’s

You see, my son John is turning 18 soon. He will legally be called an adult. Basically, when a child with autism grows to be an adult, the support that they enjoy can be taken away. But far beyond the thought of not being able to get free services, I am scared most of inclusion.

Will he be accepted in college? Or will he make it to college? Can I leave him to fend for himself? Will he make friends? Will they understand him, accommodate him, understand his “uniqueness”? Adults with autism have always existed. Most of them, however, are left out of school, the neighborhoods become wary of them. Some workplace are accommodating but there are others.. well, I just cringe at the thought.

So, it is my hope that there will be a solid support as well as research on how to address the issue on adult autism. For years, we have seen how they are institutionalized, marginalized, or, worst, abused. Beyond health concerns, these people also desire to go to college, to work and to pursue a hobby. Some may even want to pursue relationships and determine their own life’s course. They are actually just like neurotypical people. They also want to belong—and I fervently wish that they be given a chance to be in a world where everyone can co-exist without question or judgment.

Of Autism and Employment – Preparing Your Child For Life

Photo Credits: Deal With Autism
Photo Credits: Deal With Autism

It is without any hint of doubt that finding employment nowadays can be an overwhelming task and, so much more so, when you have autism. Social acceptance has long been an issue with autism. Embarking on a career while carrying such stigma will definitely put your child’s chances of finding what suits him best — as well as one that will help develop his capabilities – in a backseat. Amid the many hindrances, however, it is important to take note that many companies these days are finding “gold” among those in the spectrum. To give your child a competitive advantage, here are some tips that may come handy to his career-building path.

Train While Young

Transitioning to adulthood can invoke both fear and uncertainty among parents to teens with autism. You might be wondering whether he can manage without you or whether he can thrive in a workplace alongside “neurotypical” individuals, or whether he will be able to drive or live on his own. As such, it is imperative to start them while they are still young.

Start training your child the earliest time possible on how to live independently. As individuals with autism function distinctively and at different levels, you need to ensure that the degree of care and training allotted to him must be adequate to his level. Define his needs carefully with the aid of professionals and/or trained carers by painstakingly considering what makes him happy, by tapping his strengths and by identifying his weaknesses and finding what skills are needed to overcome them.

This is where creative thinking comes in—and you will need a lot of help to accomplish this. Plan carefully and find a suitable network or partner to undertake this lengthy and challenging process. Attend seminars, conferences, and trainings. This is also where you need to tweak your dreams for your child to best match what is deemed possible for his level of functioning.

Recognize Your Child’s Passion

Have this mindset — This. Is. Not. About. You.  You can’t force your son or daughter to be something that which he or she has no interest of. Some autistics love numbers and algorithms, computers, gadgets, and so on. Others lean on gardening, handiworks, community service—the list is endless. One thing for sure is that each child with autism has a certain eccentricity that is entirely his own.  From childhood to adolescence to adulthood, this passion will become evident and more reflective of his personality. Make sure to tap this passion and turn this into an opportunity for him to thrive on.

Reach Out

Once your child has successfully transitioned to adulthood, he might most likely encounter a blank wall. He might find employment disheartening as the number of opportunities is limited. Luckily, there are various job trainings for those with special needs nowadays which can help increase their chances of landing a job. Reach out to your community to find one for your child. There are also online resources which cater to people with disability in finding job trainings, placement, and pertinent services to assist them in their search for a thriving employment.

Giving your child a future amid his or her autism should not fall on other people’s laps. Do not let certain limitations hamper your desire to give him or her much brighter future. Some people, professionals even, may tell you otherwise but hey, miracles do happen if you pray and work had for it. Many companies have opened to the idea of autism in the workplace and this gives our children an opportunity that they shouldn’t miss.

Awareness and Acceptance – Why These Two Go Hand in Hand

There are quite aplenty of feedback that can be gathered nowadays pertaining to the recent World Autism Awareness Day.

Not everything is positive though as there are those who remains to be passive and nonchalant about the whole concept of Autism Spectrum Disorders, a range of complex neuro-developmental disorders characterized by communication difficulties, social impairments, and often restricted, stereotyped, and repetitive behavioral patterns. It is a joy to note though that public awareness is rising via this annual event.

Importance of Autism Awareness

But why raise awareness? You see, heightening the public’s level of understanding on the background and implications of Autism is the very gateway for people to understand what it is like to be living in the spectrum. It is not about telling people what to do but simply, in explaining to them the issues involving ASD and in disseminating useful information to guide them when interacting with an individual who has autism. Awareness, however, should be two-way—public awareness and self-awareness. Self-awareness occurs to both the individual with autism and to the individual’s understanding on how his/her actions or inactions affect another individual who is living autism day by day. General public awareness, on the other hand, tackles widespread acknowledgement and understanding of the issues revolving around autism on a societal level. Both levels of awareness are of utmost importance. By having a common understanding on what ASD is all about can lead to how individuals relate to it in their respective communities. Through autism awareness campaigns, a shared belief and values can become important issues in the community hence, ushering to a wider acceptance level.

Learn how to teach your community about Autism the positive way.

The Road to Autism Acceptance

In human psychology, acceptance is an individual’s assent to reality. It is the very recognition of autism in all its glory and flaws without protesting. It is important to note that up to this day, the road to autism acceptance is bumpy. A lot of controversies continually hound the realm of autism, from vaccines to therapies, treatments, researches, and what-have-you – and this virtually creates a tug-of-war from within hindering the very acceptance it hopes to pursue.

If only we can find that common ground about autism as it is, the level of awareness raised year after year could have pushed a higher level of public acceptance. Not only will this open huge opportunities on autism care, safety, and research but, also in encouraging individuals who are still in the dark to come forward and be heard. Without raising awareness, the drive for autism acceptance will prove to be futile – and vice-versa.