Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month, or as one of my friends likes to call it "Autism Acceptance Month."

During this month, there will be activities somewhere in your community that will call attention to, and provide information about, autism.

I work every day with many children and families who live with autism.  We have lived for many years with autism, and Lacy has worked all his life to overcome and thrive in spite of many challenges.

From my perspective as a parent, the most important gift you can give your autistic child is a way to deal with the uncertainties of life.  While autistic children thrive on sameness and schedule, the world does not run that smoothly.  Life happens.  Disappointment is a daily experience.  Preparing your child to deal with the inevitable changes in plans and schedules takes many years, and is not an easy task.

I can think of so many parents who lose sleep and agonize over their child's inflexibility.  It's not that our children want to throw a fit or cause problems.  The issue is that our children are living in what seems to them a foreign country.  They do not speak the language in this country, and they make sense of a world that does not make sense by clinging to schedules and predictability.

Home is the oasis in a sea of changing seasons and experiences.  We tried to provide Lacy with a place in which he could retreat for a few hours after a difficult day at school.  Sometimes he played video games, but for set periods only.  It was too easy for him to become immersed in that world and retreat from connecting with family.  We did try to keep to a schedule at home, but let him know early on if it was possible that plans could change.  Mealtimes and bedtimes were set as much as possible.

We found that Lacy loved to walk, so we did a lot of walking together.  The zoo and the park were favorite places.  He also loved to travel because he enjoyed being in the back of the car following our route on the Rand McNally map we bought him every year at Christmas time.  The more we got out, the more he learned to deal with the uncertainties of life.

For everyone else - those who don't know a child with autism - please be forgiving.  Our children live with a load of anxiety every day.  They are stressed beyond measure, and this sometimes results in outbursts and what looks like "bad behavior."  And no, we shouldn't keep them at home.  The only way to ensure that they have the best shot at independence in adult life is to see the world with all its variations and pesky unexpected events.  We are doing our best, and our children are most certainly trying to put their best foot forward.  Take an opportunity to get to know someone who is dealing with autism.  You will be enriched beyond your wildest dreams.  I know this is true, because Kenny's and my life is so rich and full because we have known, loved, and raised the amazing man named Lacy Alan Goff.


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