Monday, October 3, 2011

Why Awareness Matters (a lot)

October is autism awareness month in Canada, and every year I change my facebook profile pic to something autism related, and write countless meaningful status updates.  I do this for the same reason I write this blog, because awareness matters.

I know that many people know what autism is.  I also know that many people understand that it is skyrocketing.  But what I really want is to help in creating a community of compassion for those affected by autism, and their families.

11 year olf Mitchell Wilson recently took his own life because of a violent attack from another young boy, himself just 12.  I, like many am disguisted by the incident.  Baffled at how another child could behave this way.  But I think we are kidding ourselves if we believe that this 12 year old was anything but a product of society.  Our society.  We have to ask ourselves how we failed Mitchell, and how we failed the other boy as well.

Holding the 12 year old responsible for his actions is one thing, but not taking pause to question why it happened, and how we all hold some responsibility would be negligent.  Because there will be other Mitchells.  There already are.

Somehow, in the busy days of ferrying our sons and daughters from soccer and hockey and back again, we have forgotten to teach our own children.  Schools may teach your children to read and write, and how to add and subtract, but it is not their job to dispense morals. 

Parents, talk to your children.  Start young.  Help them to become good, solid people.  Kindness comes naturally to children, foster it, encourage it, praise it.  Young children ae accepting, we learn to fear that which is different.  Don't let them learn this fear from you.  Racism, sexism, homophobia are not  natural to the garden of a child's mind, they are dangerous seeds that get planted.  Once they take root, they can be difficult to get rid of.  Protect it dearly.

Don't stop at teaching your child to say please and thank you. Surface manners aren't enough. Teach them compassion, selflessness, and respect.  Teach them that different is not less . (That's Temple's mama talking) Make sure that they know that how they act matters.  Teach them that you are holding them to a high standard.  Act as an example for your children.

There may not be any ribbons, trophies, or first places for having a strong character, but it matters more than anything else.  Than everything else, put together.

This October, talk to your children about what autism is.  Most likely they have a child with autism in their classroom.  But don't stop at giving them a definition. 

And my family will be grateful to you.

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