In short, I’d say it’s for awareness and education. To make it more common and comfortable for people to see others with differences whether it’s in appearance, speech or behaviors.

I guess because we are so immersed in autism 24/7, I forget sometimes that there are people who don’t know anyone personally with it and it may feel foreign and possibly uncomfortable.

That’s okay! I get it. Before we had Alex, I think I would probably feel uncomfortable if I was standing at a bus stop and someone started jumping and flapping and making unusual sounds. It’s different. But I would love it if this could be put out into the world so people are made aware of it so it’s not scary. People could just be like “Oh, ok maybe this person is different. Let me give them some space or smile at them or whatever.”

Anything new takes time to get used to and feel comfortable with.

What’s not okay is bullying or derogatory language. It still feels like a little gut punch when I hear people say the ‘R’ word. You can come up with any excuse you want, but the fact of the matter is that it is used as an insult. It’s never used to describe something amazing. My Alex also has a diagnosis of intellectual disability and knowing that the ‘R’ word is often used to describe people like my son makes it sting even more.

This is why representation matters.

TV, media, us just being out and about in the community. Not just Alex and our family, but all the families who live with autism.

I feel there needs to be more representation of our kind of autism. We need to put faces to the word for there to be a human connection. People need to teach their kids to be accepting and be kind to people who are different.

The reason I’m writing this right now is that even though it’s 2021, I still see and hear stories of abuse and mistreatment.

Can I tell you how much preparation (both physically and emotionally) and courage it takes for some of us to just take our kids out of the house because we know the stares and judgment we’ll get just for being different? I can tell you how much it would mean to me as a mom, if someone would just show me a little smile, like “Hey, I see you. You’re not invisible. Welcome.” It would melt my heart, I tell ya. That’s all we want. Humanity.

Through our page, I hope that people will see Alex, first and foremost, as a human being who, despite his differences and challenges, also has gifts and a smile that’ll warm your heart, and that he deserves to be treated with the same respect and kindness that everyone deserves. If you feel brave to say “Hi” and he doesn’t respond, don’t take it personally. He can’t always speak, but he hears you and so do I, and it means so much that you tried.

If you see someone out who is having a meltdown, stimming physically or verbally, not responding? Don’t judge. Don’t insult. Don’t hurt or take advantage of. Remember: Different, not less. Just. Be. Kind. I promise you, it feels so much better than the alternative.

Remember, these people are someone’s child, brother, sister, auntie, uncle. They are a person with feelings and emotions just like you. Treat others how you would want yourself and your own kids to be treated.

This post originally appeared on The Autism Ride Facebook.
Feature image: AndyvKatz via iStock