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The Importance of Inclusion…

As parents to a son on the autism spectrum your deepest wish for your child is to be and feel included. It is important they know they are just like other kids, who want to have fun, want to run and play and most of all to feel like they belong. Our son may not be able verbalize how it makes him feel to be left out but you can see it from look on his face when kids act as if he is invisible. As a mom it breaks my heart to see him watch kids and want to engage but struggles with the “how” to interact with them.

One day I remember he grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the kids at the playground motioning to play, he wanted me to get their attention. And when they came over to play,one of the kids noticed Ralph would not speak to them. Then one of the kids asked the question, “Why doesn’t he talk to us?”. I began to explain to the kids, Ralph is on the autism spectrum and he is just a little different and has a hard time expressing himself with words. The kids played with him for a while and then resumed back playing in their group. But for thirty minutes my son was a regular kid running, laughing and playing with others. It was surreal to see him run and play with them. For that brief moment, it felt like everything was normal; I had a typical kid doing typical things.

Everyone assumes autistic children want to be alone and play alone when it's the complete opposite. I can’t tell you the countless times I have seen the sadness in his eyes when he wants to play with others and they exclude him. I feel for my daughter because she is caught in the middle where she wants to play with other kids but sees her brother playing alone and she chooses him. It breaks my heart when she has to make such an adult choice.

It is so vitally important to teach our children about autism and to teach them about empathy towards others who are different. It starts in your home, teach your children not to judge or make fun on those who are special needs or because they are simply different. Teach them to be helpful and compassionate towards others. I teach my children to know we as a family we always stick together, we are each other's best friend, there are no secrets and we stick up for one another. Also that we are not better than anyone and no one is better than us, we treat others how we want to be treated, and to be kind. Its educating family members like your parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends to have acceptance for those living with autism. And to understand they have feelings too and they understand what’s going on, they may be able to communicate it. How sometimes we as parents need that support to feel included.

It's nothing worse than to be excluded from family and friends events who knows your truth. Who knows about all of the tears you have shed for just to have one normal day. Then you see the pictures from the parties on Facebook or in hear about it general conversation, and your kids see the photos of their kids having a great time. At first you say to yourself, maybe they just forgot and then reality sets in they didn’t want to include you or your child because of his autism. I am not going to lie it stings a little bit, when your daughter asks, "Why weren’t we invited?", and you have to explain it. But I have to look at it as a teachable moment for everyone. You to learn to rise above it and become stronger, for your kids to know you can’t sweat the small stuff. Let them know sometimes we may not be invited to all of the events and it has nothing to do with them. I admit at times I have taken my son’s autism to mean he doesn’t understand. It wasn’t until I read the book “The Reason I Jump:The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism:” by Naoki Higashida that shed like on what it is like to be autistic and what they were feeling. I totally changed my approach to parenting my son and daughter. And I came to realization that just because he is autistic doesn’t mean he doesn’t have feelings, because he does. I vowed to always check myself and others when discussing his condition around him, he knows what we are saying. I promise him every day to never give up on him, to love him with everything I have and protect him with every fiber within me. I love both of my children and try every day to give them a life filled with love, wisdom I have learned, and lots of encouragement and support.

Trust me this post is not call out wrong doings but to make people aware that being autistic doesn’t have to be a world of isolation for the child or the family. I am firm believer that love conquers all. It’s the love we have for God, ourselves and others that can make a difference and bring about change. We know Ralph may not get invited to many birthday parties or have any play dates but we as his parents will continue to do the work by talking about autism, shedding light on what is it is, teaching acceptance and searching for support from our family and community. We live in a world where Random Acts of Kindness is a rare occurrence when it should be the norm. We face social injustice, racism and discrimination across the spectrum. No longer will he be in the shadows we will shed light on autism and working to make this a better place for our family and the communities we live in. The time is now to do better and be better leading by example. Teaching our children the foundation of respect, being humble, to have compassion towards others and not to judge others. If you want change it starts with you doing the work making it a better place taking one day at a time, one person at a time.

So during this holiday season say a prayer for families with a child on the autism spectrum, be kind and have some compassion because it's not easy.

Have a happy and safe holiday season!

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." - Maya Angelou

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32)

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