By Kodey Toney
They Say It’s Your Birthday
April 2 is coming up soon, and with that comes National Autism Awareness Day. This is the day we wear puzzle pieces, light up our houses and towns with blue lights, and make sure that the world knows about autism. However, April 5 is more important to me. This is my true autism awareness day. Not because I don’t care about telling everyone about autism, but because my inspiration, my motivation, and a huge chunk of my world will turn 10 years old that day.
Konner’s birthday is a reason to celebrate many things, but for me it’s a reason to celebrate the great things that come along with autism. It’s a day for me to celebrate how far we’ve come together.
I’ve said in the past that I feel just about everyone is aware of autism at this point. Maybe I’m naïve, but with 1 in 68 diagnosed, at this point just about everyone knows someone with autism. The Center for Disease Control likes to release those numbers around this time of year to coincide with the autism awareness day, so be prepared for the numbers to change.
I could be wrong though. I was unaware of what autism really was until seven years ago when Konner was diagnosed. I thought it was a funny word, and had some really bad opinions of people who had been diagnosed. I saw it as a horrifying diagnosis for my child, or any child. I saw the parents struggling with their children and the children struggling with the disorder as a nuisance.
I was one of the outsiders who couldn’t see past the nametag, the diagnosis, to see the true beauty of what is going on inside these beautiful minds. I couldn’t see the potential in their lives and what they could do for the world. I couldn’t see that they could live productive lives helping out in the community and contributing to society.
I couldn’t see that they can also open up the minds of people like me and allow us to understand that everyone has something to offer if we just give them the chance, find what they like and are good at, and give them the tools to work with. I couldn’t see that EVERYONE is someone. I couldn’t see that people on the spectrum belong in the classroom, in the working world, and in the community despite the fact that they are “different”.
I was blinded by what society has allowed to happen to people with disabilities in the past. I was blinded by the fact that the world looks differently at people with disabilities and that I thought I should too.
On top of this I was afraid. I was afraid that autism would cause people to look at my son differently and treat him differently. I was afraid that people wouldn’t give him a chance and would only see that same label that I saw. I was afraid that he would not be included in society like his peers because of his diagnosis. I was afraid that people would see me as a bad parent because I couldn’t always control my child when he can’t control his own feelings and bodily functions.
In seven years I’ve learned to cope with these things. Though much of the world still views my son differently, and he’s still shunned in some settings, I know that we (me, Jen, Konner, and Kruz) are all doing what we can to help him, to help others with disabilities, and most importantly we are trying to help the way others see people with disabilities. We have a long way to go, but we will continue to move forward.
You see, if it weren’t for Konner I would still be that same ignorant person that I was seven years ago. Happy birthday buddy, and thank you.