A year ago today, I was a ball of nerves, as I hit “Publish” on my first blog, inviting all of you into my world as a Single Mom, raising her son on the Autism Spectrum. The moniker I chose as a blogger (Champion of Truths, Unicorns & AWEtism) speaks to my position as a truthful, unicorn lovin’,
Today is Autism Awareness and Acceptance day, otherwise known as any other day in the home of most Autistic families. I believe with enough support and advocacy, we can build awareness for any cause. Acceptance though, that’s the challenge. We as a culture have ongoing issues with accepting those that are different from us. So, I made it a goal of mine, to educate and graciously promote the AWE that one experiences when they’re in the company of someone with Autism.
A few months ago, I received a passionate email from someone that read one of my blogs I shared on a Special Needs Community page. The sender was triggered by this specific blog: “Where Autism-angst ends & Gratitude begins”,and shared her brutal truths as to why. She opened the email with this:
“How the f%ck does one find the AWE in Autism? You need to shove your rose-colored glasses up your ass and get real with exactly what Autism is. Autism sucks. There is no AWE to be found. Stop painting an inspiring picture of this disorder. People need to know all the shit that we as parents and our children go through. That’s how we build compassion. What does seeing the AWE in Autism teach people about this awful disorder? Stop sugar-coating it. If you want to highlight something, highlight the AWful in Autism.”
I sat with this woman’s email for days. It was all I could think about. I re-read it a dozen or so times. It felt quite familiar to me, as if my younger-self wrote it. You see, this was me 4-years ago, when Kellan was first diagnosed with Autism. I was angry AF, as bitter as one could be and I was proud to claim the role of victim. I truly understood where this woman was coming from. I didn’t feel the need to reply. This is where she was at for the time being, and who was I to try to convince her to think differently. All I really wanted to do was reach out and hug her. Tell her that I see her, I feel her, I WAS her. And not to say I am a recovered angsty, Autism Mom who shits rainbows on the daily. Believe me, that is the farthest from the truth. However, I don’t ever want people to see my son (or anyone with Autism for that matter) and feel sorry for him. I want them to see all that is special about him, and experience the AWE of what it means to be different. I can say with certainty, that it is much easier and healthier to focus on the AWE of the special child I have been gifted with, than the alternative. I tried out both, and this warm, awe-filled, sunny side serves cookies.
Whereas I never replied to this woman, I did want to use this space, on this day (World Autism Awareness Day), to answer one of her questions: “What does seeing the AWE in Autism teach people about this disorder?”
As a researcher, I have studied the concept of AWE. Awe has been known to provoke curiosity. Curiosity is the appetite for knowledge. When we are curious, we go on an exploration of sorts, poking at & questioning what we’re seeking to understand and leaving ourselves wide open to what it teaches us. We replace fear of the unknown with curiosity. So, if awe has the ability to make people more curious, than why the fuck wouldn’t I choose to see the AWE in Autism and present it as such? Taking the misunderstanding, discomfort, and fear out of what society believes is Autism and promoting the AWE instead. That, to me, is how you build awareness and acceptance.
So that’s my plan in championing this cause, opening the conversation, informing the uninformed to see and embrace the AWE, in hopes that it lessens the stigma society still attaches to Autism.
The more time I spend immersed in the world of Autism, my list of AWE grows longer and stronger. Here are just a few of the AWEsome qualities to pay attention to when you’re in the company of an Autistic
💙Autistics are truthtellers, they see things as they really are. Their lens on life is filter-free. They live in a black and white world, with no muddy, grey areas. Therefore, they will tell you exactly how it is, without you having to read between the lines.
💙Autistics are truly passionate beings. They enjoy many things that most people ignore. And when they love something, you’ll know it. It will become their greatest obsession.
💙Autistics couldn’t care less about social expectations. They have no interest in wearing the coolest sneakers, or if they’re the most popular kid in school. They don’t judge others either. They’re the realists, and because of that, they often see through surface appearances to discover what’s real and true.
💙Some Autistics have terrific memories. A surprisingly large number of people on the spectrum have photographic memories, perfect pitch, and/or an almost perfect memory for songs, poems, and stories. It’s truly a fascinating trait.
💙Autistics live in the moment. They are truly attentive to the input that surrounds them. Some see the beauty that others miss. Many achieve the ideal of what it means to be mindful.
💙Never underestimate someone with Autism. They are called warriors for a reason. They must work harder to adjust to the world around them and yet they overcome great obstacles on a daily basis. Many go on to silence the naysayers and defeat any limitations that have ever been put upon them.
So, for all that I listed above (and so much more), is why I choose to see the AWE in Autism. I could only hope you choose to do the same.
Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways. Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 7-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.