By Heidi Brewton
My wish for the New Year:
I never have been a person to write Christmas letters telling what my family did this year. I have decided, however, to ask that you help me make my New Years Wish for 2010 come true. You see, it will take many people changing their mindset for this to happen.
There are many theories about Autism-what causes it, how it is viewed, how best to treat it, and so on. No one, including myself, has these answers. What I know for sure, though, is that Autism is a disability, and a disability, and having a disability makes you different form the rest of society. I have found, when looking back over my life, that I have learned the most from the people who were the least like me. So far, the people who top that list are the people I know with disabilities. They, as well as their parents, are faced with fighting for things that the rest of society takes for granted. Attending their home school right down the street, receiving a free and appropriate education-these are things that are not taken for granted and are not a given.
For example, most people do not want a child in a Sunday school class who “stims” or is too loud. The Sunday school teachers fee l(and other parents feel) that will distract the other children. I have found that when you explain to young children ways to help a child with a disability, they are often very interested in doing so. It is usually the adults who do not want to disrupt their quiet predictable hour. However, learning to help others and tolerate differences is a very Christian attitude. So it seems doubly sad that many people with a child with disabilities do not feel welcome in church.
Having a son with a disability has taught me so much- more than any other experience in my life. It has changed my views on just about everything. Autism has given me a passion for rights regarding all people with disabilities and a appreciation for all those who have walked this path before me. When I see a wheel chair ramp, I am reminded that the people who need these did not always have access to them. Someone had to get loud and fight to make it a law. I am betting it was a MOM!
I have volunteered at my son’s school where there are kids with cognitive and physical disabilities. There also some "typical" kids. It is sad and pathetic to see adults stare at a 5 year old using a walker on a class field trip. These people are staring because they are not exposed to disabilities and never have been. Our society is so screwed up. We hide our kids with autism in all ASD class, because even if we want to mainstream, we must fight a never ending battle with the school. Or the kids with CP and Downs, they get carted off down the hall too, to a VE class. You may grow up never really knowing a person with disabilities as a real person. That is just wrong. Our kids have the right to be out in public and belong, and it starts when they and their peers are young. ALL kids have this right. It is NOT a privilege.
What is my wish for the New Year? That when you see a person with a disability, you will treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. That you will not take your own abilities for granted, but also not judge others who appear to not have the same abilities you have. We can all learn a lot from those who are different from ourselves.
Heidi Brewton is a mom to an amazing boy who has autism. And also has 2 other incredible kids! She is married and works part time for a not for profit autism organization.