Welcome to 2013! I still can't believe how fast 2012 went, or for that matter the years of 2010 and 2011. It feels like I've been doing this forever, but it hasn't even been three years! With that being so I still feel new to the presenting and blogging thing. Anyway, as with 2011 and 2012 I want to do a post welcoming the new year but I feel the importance of my mission is even more so than in years past so my normal posts for the new year would be shallow. So, to bring depth, I want to write my hopes for the new year.
I hope that in 2013 I can do my part to further the understanding of the autism spectrum. We can give the world all the awareness it can handle, but without understanding the mission is only half done. I firmly believe that "understanding is the foundation for hope" because how can one give any empathy or compassion on something they don't understand? This understanding can happen at any age! I was so blessed with the chance to speak to thousands of students in the last two months of 2012 and when a fifth grader asks a question you'd expect a college professor to ask, well, I knew the road to understanding took a giant leap forward.
I hope that in 2013 the stigma of the word autism/Asperger's lessens. The media did a disservice to the autism spectrum in December and while there have been stories in papers offering the real information on autism I feel and fear that the damage to the name is going to take a while to be repaired. This has to be accelerated though! Perhaps the most important comment I've ever had on my blog occurred on my Open Letter to The Media and in it there was this quote, "'Mommy I have that don't I?' and put his head down in shame." Confidence is of the utmost importance for us on the autism spectrum to grow to our full potential. This means if there is a stigma, and we're avoided, we are going to have no confidence and our ability to grow, learn, and make friends will become even more difficult. It doesn't need to be this way! Let me say that again, IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE THIS WAY!
I hope that in 2013 we don't have any stories of autism and teachers in the news at the same time. Anytime this happens, usually, it's a story about some form of abuse or neglect. My heart breaks each time this happens. Stories like this should never happen. Also, when they do happen this furthers the stigma that teachers know nothing about autism. I often say that, "if you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism." The media never seems to be able to share that aspect of the autism spectrum but also we could say that, "if you've met one teacher you've only met one teacher." I've come across hundreds of awesome teachers that are moved to tears in my presentation because they think back to a student that they didn't understand. The numbers of us on the autism spectrum are growing faster than the system seemed to be prepared for so not everyone has the information they need. This can lead to one of those sensational stories on the news and when this happens I hope we can take a step back and not blame all teachers because there are a lot of awesome teachers that are going to change lives for the better out there.
Most of all in 2013 I hope that you, the media (fingers crossed), I, or anyone can reach as many people as possible and give them the true information about the autism spectrum. I feel we have so much potential but if we let our diagnosis define who we are, and then this is reinforced by the media and the general public, what room is left for growth? Yes, we have our challenges, but isn't that challenging enough? I started stressing the point of, "if you see what you're not you forget who you are" at the end of 2012 and this is absolutely true. This hope, dream, and goal can only be achieved if all the previous paragraphs come true. By speaking to entire student bodies we are changing the future. By erasing the stigma the word autism or Asperger Syndrome won't have prejudices attached to it, and by reaching teachers we are changing the present.
All in all I hope that 2013 is just like 2012 for me. I want to keep doing what I have been doing for the past three years and through my presentations, and blog, I hope to do my part in adding that extra dimension of understanding.