Monday, 07 May 2012
So...I decided not to write a blog for Autism Awareness month. Seems crazy right? Well, everyone else was writing lots of articles and blogs for the month, and it was great to see new people getting vocal about Autism. I enjoyed sitting back and watching people shine. Then May 1st hit and it died down, and people seemed to go back to their normal routines. So why didn’t I write anything? Autism Awareness is something that should be “celebrated” all year, not just one month. I wanted this blog to be a reminder of that.
It was nice to watch people come from the woodwork to honor Autism in April. There were countless articles that were inspiring, and houses were lit up blue! Why did it stop there? Autism doesn’t just last a month; it’s a lifetime of ups and downs. Sure, the extra support in April is great- but with Autism being the “top” developmental disorder right now, why aren’t more people rallying year long?
I got to be part of several wonderful benefits for Autism this past month. My favorite? I was absolutely honored to cohost the Funny Business radio show with Ed Asner last week. For those of you who may have missed the memo...he starred in Mary Tyler Moore, acted in countless fantastic films…but my favorite…he was Santa Claus in Elf and the old guy in Up!! He has a son and a grandson with Autism. You can check it out here! Thank you to Mike Bova who let me be part of this. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/funnybusinessradio/2012/05/02/brielle-lacosta-zack-gonzlez-ed-asner-jenny-mccarthy
Don’t forget!!! Autism Speaks here in NJ is having their annual walk this October. I want to see everyone there! Several corporations will match donations- does yours? Put a team together and come out and walk! No, it is not a mini-marathon. No, it does not require you to start training now for it. No, it’s not a race where you will be sweating and sprinting towards the finish line (well, I mean, you can…but you may be the only one). It is a fantastic day for families to get out there and walk to support Autism!
Okay, time to get to the point. I must warn you that this blog is not going to consist of butterflies and rainbows. I witnessed something yesterday that really annoyed me…leading me to the name for this blog. A lot of people ask me, “What was the hardest part about being involved in pageantry?” It’s simple: the “haters.” There is no better word to describe them. My definition of a hater: someone who shows jealousy, hatred, spreads lies about you, picks you apart, doesn’t believe in you, and would love to see you fail. Sadly, these people are everywhere. To be honest, this was the hardest part I had to overcome. It was incredibly difficult to be at an event for Autism, or any cause for that matter, and notice the glares, hear the whispers, and have people criticize to my face. They have never met me and they don’t know my story. I didn’t understand, and had to keep cool and not become defensive. Often it brought me to tears, and I did not understand how people could be so cruel. Where am I going with this?
Yesterday I was at my beloved Target when I noticed a child- I would say about 9 or 10 years old, sitting in the cart while his mother pushed him. Obviously, he was too large for the cart and it certainly drew attention. While perusing the food aisles, we ended up in the peanut butter aisle together. Now it was pretty obvious the boy had Autism. He made several sounds and flapped every 30 seconds or so. We were only a few feet away from each other, so I said hi. The mother looked pretty surprised and prompted her son to say hi back. He had big blue eyes and a faint smile as she moved his hand for him to wave. I said to the boy enthusiastically, “how are you?!” This is where I just could not believe it.
The mother said abruptly, “Oh, he doesn’t understand that. He’s Autistic. He can’t talk or understand you.” First of all, how could you talk that way about your child? Second of all, why aren’t you his number one advocate? Aren’t you happy I did not run the other way when I entered that aisle? I’ve seen the way the public acts towards Autism. But the worst part…why does she have to be such a hater? I know she is his mother, but seriously, who is she to say he doesn’t understand? She has already decided he will amount to nothing. Who says? I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed children with autism not receiving the teaching they deserve because their instructor/teacher “assumes” the child just won’t get it. Just because many are nonverbal, does not mean they won’t understand. Why are most people such haters when it comes to Autism? Then they wonder why some of these children act out and become aggressive? Trust me, these kids understand. There are so many articles on the Internet about nonverbal children with Autism who used an iPad to type how they feel. Several of them made it clear they have understood everything- their entire life. Like I said before, I had an extremely difficult time dealing with the haters and that was just occasionally. Can you imagine dealing with it everyday- and also having Autism, and not having a voice to defend yourself?
If you have a child with Autism, I know you’ve faced frustrations and felt like your child may act out “on purpose.” This may be true- but why are they doing it? They are people too, with emotions, who UNDERSTAND. I cannot stress this enough. If you’re a teacher, I beg you not to give up and just give children with Autism “busy work,” or a puzzle to entertain them while they are in your class. Most of society won’t even bother to try- children and adults with autism don’t have many people fighting for them as individuals. When I visited Celebrate The Children, some of their nonverbal children were learning CALCULUS. It was inspiring. Trust me, these children with Autism understood and could complete problems- silently. Have you attempted something like this? Do you truly know what your child is capable of? Please remember, nonverbal does not equal dumb. So I guess all I am trying to say is, don’t be such a hater.