On Friday, the Catholic School Mary and Thomas attend celebrated Autism Awareness Day. During an assembly four kids got up to talk about their experience with autism. Two of the children talked about how it feels to have Asperger's and Mary and her friend talked about having siblings with autism. The 300 students were the quietest and most attentive I have experienced. All the speeches were written from the heart and talked about the need for acceptance and understanding. (Amen to that!) Both the kids that talked about their own diagnosis each talked about how they may think and learn differently but they also enjoy so many of the things that their non-Asperger's friends enjoy. "I am like you in many ways", said one child. It was very impressive to hear these young kids (age 8 and 10) talk about their Asperger's and how aware they are of their struggles. One statement really stood out from one young boy. He said, "If God had wanted me another way, He would have created me that way." How beautiful. In my own life, I know that all my children, the ones with Fragile X and the ones without, WILL change the face of Autism and Intellectual Disabilities in the future. Our openness with the kids' diagnosis will help people be more accepting and understanding and Thomas and Mary's everyday experiences have already profoundly shaped their lives.
Below is a copy of Mary's speech.
My name is Mary Parker.
My brother Thomas and I have 2 brothers and 1 sister with Autism.
I would like you to know that my brothers and sisters and all people with autism are smart in their own special way. They are fun to be around and they like things just like you and me like Sponge Bob, iCarly, Justin Beiber, basketball and soccer. A lot of people with autism don’t talk as well as you and me and they are very shy but they still like to have friends.
My brothers and sister get worried about a lot of things and they are afraid to go into loud crowded places like Hershey Bears games and HersheyPark. Their autism causes them to be afraid and worried about things that we think are usually fun. We have to be patient and tell them just take a deep breath. We usually bring earphones so they could feel a little better but what really calms them down is pressure on their body. They have a very heavy blanket at school just in case they get nervous. When we are in public like HersheyPark and they get nervous we usually have a stress ball or we just squeeze their hand. The same at home with homework.
Every week we go to therapeutic horseback riding. It is very calming for them. One time my little brother was so relaxed he fell asleep on the horse. Every week we also go to Special Olympics swimming and gymnastics. We have lots of friends at Special Olympics.
And remember you always should treat people with autism the same as you treat your best friend.