Many times people experiencing challenges similar to me often relate the courthouse as a place where bad things happen for them. But this past week, it was a good time. I had the pleasure of standing at the commissioner’s meeting for the reading of the proclamation claiming April as Autism Awareness Month in my county.
However, this moment was not just for autistic individuals but for those with lived experience. I was joined with one of my co-workers, who comes from a lived experience as a parent of an autistc child. While having the opportunity to be of something in a public meeting that brings to light autism, it is important to remember that autism is indeed a spectrum disorder and what the two experiences the reading of the proclamation of Autism Awareness Month (this was initially planned in 2020, then got pushed back to now because of the pandemic, which was nice because I was at a bad pont at that juncture.)
With that said, the experiences of myself and my co-worker, while unique and different roles, are just one experience from each of those roles and we only stood as our experiences. It does not devalue the experiences that others (a couple thousand according to the CDC in the last autism census in my county) experience. Of course, this was prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Being present for a photo opportunity with the three individuals that govern the decisions of my county government is only a way to show that autistic people exist in our county and shows the possibilities of those affected by autism can manage the challenges they are facing and see that someone has their concerns in mind.
Autism Awareness Month as always is in April and World Autism Day is on April 2nd. In recent years by some entities this switch has been made from awareness to acceptance. In reality with anyone affected by someone with autism is for someone to accept an autistic person for who they are no matter where they are on their journey. Although I have accomplished so much in my life, autism is still a part of my daily life and always will be. Disregarding it only discounts my ability to live the life that I deserve to live by accepting my autism and doing my part a a self-advocate by not only educating others about autism but ensuring that I receive the accommodations I need to be successful in the life that I choose to live.
Seeing all the reactions once I shared the fact that I was able to attend my county Commissioners meeting and represent the autism community is no doubt an honor because of my involvement within the county in many facets of my lifespan. However, it is not about being recognized, it is making the county I live in realize that autism is prevalent, that awareness, acceptance and understanding that while autism comes with a set of challenges no matter where someone is on the spectrum, they shouldn’t be treated as any less of a person just because they are autistic. We have came a long way, myself included in what many consider the dark ages for my functionality, but we must continue to provide necessary supports to autistics in not only my county, but around the world so they can thrive in the community just as I have,