This post has been a long time coming. It’s something I've been thinking about for over a year; it’s something that Layne and I talk about often. It is something that means more to me than I will be able to express in this little post, but I want to try.
Jonah is a little weird. He prefers to be naked, especially when swimming or jumping on the trampoline. He likes to spin, really fast. He is screamy. He is ALWAYS carrying something around. He doesn't eat most things, but he touches lots of things to his lips. He loves to push his chin into people, sometimes really hard. He giggles. He sits on my lap, and he’s really too big for that. He likes to dump things on his head. He can’t speak and communicates with his device or by taking your hand and directing you wherever he wants you. Sometimes it is hard to be around Jonah.
He has autism. You know that, right? You know that’s why he is the way he is, a little strange, sometimes naked, often yelling and jumping. But do your kids know? Do your children know the word autism? Do they know that autism is what makes it hard for Jonah to play with them the way other kids do? Do they know that autism makes it nearly impossible for Jonah to speak? Please teach your kids about autism.
We are not ashamed that Jonah has autism. We are sad sometimes, but we are never ashamed. It is not a secret. Please talk to your kids about autism. Tell them what it is, and why it is and how it affects Jonah. Be clear. Reteach them. Please don’t just tell them, “That’s just how Jonah is.” Because that’s not just how Jonah is, that’s how autism is.
Jonah is lots of things besides weird. He is really funny. He is loving and affectionate. He is incredibly smart. Sometimes the weird stuff makes it hard to see the great stuff. Sometimes the autism part of him masks the Jonah part of him. Please help your kids see the Jonah part of him. Teach them that the stuff that he does that makes them think he is weird or annoying or impossible to connect with are the autism, and the parts that make him lovable and funny and kind are the Jonah parts.
If you need resources to teach your kids about autism, find them here:
Autism Speaks FAQ
10 Things I Wish Your Kids Knew About Autism
What is Autism?