It's that time again. April has reared its head, and I'm wondering what to say about autism that hasn't already been said. What could I possibly bring to the table, as a parent, that will make the unaware more aware?
Then I realize I don't have to say anything at all. A 13 year-old girl has summed up what you need to know about autism more eloquently and succinctly than people more than double her age.
Plus, who better to ask about autism than someone who is actually autistic?
Bethany Hiatt, who describes herself as an an "aspiring journalist/fighter for autism acceptance," published a fantastic article in her school magazine - and it has been shared widely since.
In "Let's Talk About Autism," Beth describes some core challenges experienced by individuals with autism - from sensory overload to social mores and poor motor skills.
"We are the children that run with a gait, who are always picked last for the team, whose handwriting ranges from scruffy to illegible. The worst thing is, we are not often given help for this. As autism is known as an invisible disability, people think we are not trying hard enough, children laugh at our mishaps, we feel left out and like a failure on many occasions."
But she also highlights the many gifts autism can bestow.
We live in an age in which there is a national day for everything under the sun. Schools give a lot of airtime to social causes and campaigns. We have an influx of movies and TV shows and books and Broadway plays about quirky kids.
Yet sadly, when it comes to hard, practical knowledge about autism, we are still coming up short. Communities need educating. Teachers, medical staff, police officers need special training. Watching Rain Man no longer cuts it.
So if you want to be aware, truly aware, don't simply wear blue and call it a day. Show your awareness through your actions all year long:
"Try to make a safe space if somebody with autism is on edge at a party. Gently nudge them if they say something wrong. Pick them for your team if playing sports. Even smiling and saying hello in the corridor. Small gestures matter. Often, they can speak louder than words ever could."