A few years ago, I had not heard of the Light It Up Blue Campaign.
In reality this year is the 8th annual anniversary of the Autism World Awareness Day. Autism is one of only three health issues recognized by the United Nations. The LIUB campaign is a way to show support for Autism Awareness by wearing blue or—better yet!—using blue lights so a whole building (for example) can shine forth as blue. Here are some photos of cities participating in the Light It Up Blue Campaign. All photos are taken from the Autism Speaks Blog.
Chicago, Illinois, USA
New York, New York, USA
LIUB kicks off April as Autism Awareness Month. I know a bit about autism so can say I am aware. I know some students and family members who are on the autism spectrum, and my sister often works with children on the autism spectrum as part of her visual perception tutoring. I am also pleased to notice that characters on the autism spectrum are more often seen on television shows and in movies these days. One of my favorite characters is the teen Max Braverman on Parenthood who has Aspergers. Specialists work with the writers and actor to ensure the character’s portrayal is realistic. Any effort that demonstrates the humanity and creativity of anyone on the autism spectrum is a step in the right direction!
I also follow the blog Autism Speaks. This blog publishes daily, sharing updates and information about all aspects of autism. My favorites are the guest blogs from parents of children with autism or from teens or adults with autism sharing their own stories. One of today’s stories is enlightening. Kristi Campbell, mother of a special needs son, shares some insights she gleaned from a survey of other parents in her article “10 Things Autism Parents Wish You Knew.” The article offers a full explanation, but here is my abbreviated version of the list:
- Don’t feel awkward or weirded out around our kids.
- “Not all autism is the same.”
- That our child’s autism does not look like the autism of someone else you know does not mean our child is not autistic.
- Kids with autism need love and laughter just like everyone else.
- Autism shows itself differently with each individual.
- Kids with special needs are smart and creative!
- If our kids are making strange noises or acting out in some way, you can look—just please do not gape and judge.
- Don’t judge the parents when they do not discipline their special needs children for behaviors that you do not understand so often judge as inappropriate.
- Give parents of special needs children some empathy instead of judgment.
- “Please accept our kids the way that you assume we will accept yours.”
The obvious thread through this list is that each child is different, whether special needs or not. Each child is unique, intelligent, creative, responsive, and loveable in his/her own way. If we can each remember that, then the other details and challenges of autism can be learned, addressed and handled.
I read a book recently called The Reason I Jump: the Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida, with an introduction by David Mitchell. David Mitchell and his wife were intrigued by this book when they saw it in the original Japanese because it was written by a young boy with autism. The author’s answers to a range of questions—such as the question that generated the title—gave the Mitchells insights into their own son’s behavior as a child on the autism spectrum. Each child is different, but some of the behaviors and frustrations are shared. Naoki Higashida’s preface sets up the whole premise for the book—to offer insight and understanding. Here is how his preface starts:
“When I was small, I didn’t even know that I was a kid with special needs. How did I find out? By other people telling me that I was different from everyone else, and that this was a problem. True enough. It was very hard for me to act like a normal person, and even now I still can’t “do” a real conversation. I have no problem reading books aloud and singing, but as soon as I try to speak with someone, my words just vanish. Sure, sometimes I manage a few words—but even those can come out the complete opposite of what I want to say! I can’t respond appropriately when I’m told to do something, and whenever I get nervous I run off from wherever I happen to be. So even a straightforward activity like shopping can be really challenging if I’m tackling it on my own.
“So why can’t I do these things? During my frustrating, miserable, helpless days, I’ve started imagining what it would be like if everyone was autistic. If autism was regarded simply as a personality type, things would be so much easier and happier for us than they are now. For sure, there are bad times when we cause a lot of hassle for other people, but what we really want is to be able to look toward a brighter future.
“Thanks to training I’ve had. . . I’ve learned a method of communication via writing. Now I can even write on the computer. Problem is, many children with autism don’t have the means to express themselves, and often even their own parents don’t have a clue what they might be thinking. So my big hope is that I can help a bit by explaining in my own way, what’s going on in the minds of people with autism. I also hope that, by reading this book, you might become a better friend of someone with autism.”
This is an interesting book. While no two people with autism will experience the world or the challenges and frustrations of communicating with others in the exact same way, this book lets readers see how one young man with autism explains his situation. The potential similarities—even to the basic sense that there is thought and reason and insight going on behind a quiet child’s eyes—can help give a glimpse into what it may be like to live with autism for the child, the family, the classmates and teachers, and the friends. As Naoki Higashida wishes, “Have a nice trip through our world.” I do wonder at times given some of the language and analogies used in the book if the translation expanded some on the author’s original phrasing, but that is a challenge with any translation. Regardless, this book is intriguing, enlightening, and well worth a read.
Today is Light It Up Blue Day, a kick off to Autism Awareness Month. If you are wanting to learn more about the autism spectrum, consider following Autism Speaks and/or reading The Reason I Jump. They offer some good insights into living with autism. If you have any resources to share that will also help educate about autism, please mention them here. This is a topic I hope to keep learning about to increase my overall understanding and to improve my interactions with those living on the spectrum.