What's living with autism like? I've read and heard some first hand descriptions.
Let me give it a try: You're on vacation with a friend in a foreign land. Your friend knows the local customs and speaks the language, but you don't. She's invited to a party that night, and wants you to come along, thinking you'll enjoy the band playing there.
You get to the party, and you run into a couple problems. First, the new outfit you bought is itchy and uncomfortable (you wore it straight off the rack). Wool was a bad choice. When you get to the party, no one else speaks your language. Your friend has tried to give you a few lessons, but you just haven't been able to pick it up. So, right off the bat you can't really interact with anyone.
It doesn't help that the band's playing at a volume that makes your ear ring, or that they're using spotlights that keep blinding you. The place is packed, and you start to get anxious because all you really want to do is get out of there and get some air and a little peace.
You've had enough, you can't handle it anymore, and you start to panic. You try to force your way through the crowd, with people staring at you and yelling in that language you can't speak. They start looking at your friend, basically wondering what she was thinking to bring you along, asking her what your problem is. The majority of the crowd doesn't know you can't speak the language, or that you don't know the social mores of the area. To them, you're just an ill-tempered, ill-mannered party guest that needs to go.
Your friend makes her apologies so she can get you out of there for your sake, not theirs. She was worried this might happen since she knew your situation, but didn't want to leave you behind. You feel badly for what happened. It's not that you didn't want to get to know some of her friends and have a good time, it was just too hard with all those people, all that sound and light overloading your senses.
Now imagine that the foreign land is actually home, the language you can't understand is English, and the one-night event is everyday.
This is what life is like for my boy.
Autism can make you a stranger in your own land. The magnitude and effects differ from person to person. Some are so high functioning that you wouldn't even know they were autistic at first glance. It's still a fact of life for these people. Men and women. Boys and girls. It's something they're born with.
It's also something they can learn to live with. The good news is that the condition is being recognized earlier, and early intervention can do wonders. There's no cure, and no use in wishing otherwise, at least for now.
That doesn't mean that those with autism are "cursed" to lead an unfulfilling life. They can still see and appreciate things for what they are, a lot of the time doing a better job of it than someone considered "typical". They feel all the same things anyone does, and have just as much potential. They just need a bit more help and understanding to live up to it.
That's what World Autism Awareness Day is about, at least what it should be. Just remember, after a day of lighting it up blue, or doing a walk, or watching a documentary, those with this condition will still be facing the same challenges. The next day and every day after they'll still be striving to live up to their potential and meet their dreams. Support them and the people who love them not just today, but everyday.
Oh, and do it with a smile. Just like Cray-Cray.
Feel free to share.