June the 18th would seem like another day on the calendar for most, but for my family, this day is super special as it is Autistic Pride Day. We are a family of five, with one of our children, Micah, on the spectrum. We received his diagnosis just after he turned three and recently celebrated his fifth birthday. Autistic Pride Day is celebrated worldwide and recognises the significance of pride in Autistic people. For our family, it is a day that we often reflect on the journey we have been on with Micah and the leaps he has made.
When Micah was first diagnosed, I will be the first to admit that I didn't know much about Autism, it was always something I heard about but never knew exactly what it was, and in turn, I feel like so many people can relate to that. That goes hand in hand with one of the biggest struggles we have all faced as a family: the "misconception" factor.
Micah is like any other young boy; he loves to explore, climb and animals, and his autistic characteristics are challenges with transitions and regulating his big emotions. That can often lead to meltdowns in public and judgemental glares and stares. School pick-up used to be a complete nightmare for me! I would try to keep Micah entertained as we waited for his big brother to finish school. I also had his younger sister in the pram. Micah would always see this as an opportunity to explore! So many classrooms and older kids like his big brother, so many cool toys and animals to play with, why wouldn't Mum let me play here? Most of the teachers wouldn't mind Micah sneaking in for the last five minutes and playing in the corner, but on the odd occasion, if it wasn't ok and I had to remove him, it would be meltdown central. I would have to try to carry my very tall 4-year-old out kicking and screaming whilst pushing the pram and praying that the time would fast forward so my eldest would be able to leave school. Situations such as this are challenging for both the child and the parent, the open judgement and stares are hard to endure.
What gets to me is how fast people are to judge this little boy. Labelling him as naughty and disruptive, where on the flip side, he is the sweetest little soul and if people can look beyond the exterior and their judgements, you would see there are so many pieces to this puzzle.
With help from our key support worker, teachers, and even a behavioural psychologist, we developed the tools to help Micah through transitions. Over the past two years, Micah's vocabulary has improved so much that he can communicate his feelings using words or facial expressions. In transition situations, we offer many verbal and visual prompts to support him through this. Repetition, reassurance and consistency are the keys.
“Autistic Pride Day is celebrating everything our son is. ”
Micah shows us the importance of patience, how to communicate without words and how to cherish those precious moments that you often take for granted. He is the heart and soul of our family, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.