The Bee Whisperer

World Autism Awareness Day is quite possibly one of my favorite days of the year.

On this day, acceptance is the word of the day.

The whole world holds hands with autism families, and for that day, our babies are celebrated.  

I would love to tell you that it looks like this every day... but that would be an untruth.

Part of sharing awareness is giving you a glimpse into the life of a family that dances with autism, so we'll only speak truth here.

TRUTH: There are days that just aren't pretty.

There are days when the fact that the weather has changed and it's raining can change an entire morning schedule. Getting out the door becomes more sporting event and less normalcy.

Other days, the world is just too loud, too excited, and too much.  For as much as we'd love to join in the party, some days the boundaries of autism just won't allow participation.

The best explanation I've ever heard is two fold. Do you know that feeling you have when a bee buzzes by your head and your whole body tingles and kind of tightens up in reaction? Or the feeling you get when nails screech across a chalkboard? Okay. Imagine feeling that every moment of your life... or feeling it sporadically, but never knowing when the feeling will hit and always living in anticipation of the feeling.

It's life on pins and needles and it impacts everything that you do and everyone that you love.Some people ask why there needs to be a month of awareness for autism. Honestly, that bumble bee / chalkboard example is my best explanation for the why.

Because once you hear it framed up that way, you can never look at autism the same way.  
Once you hear it that way, you understand.

You understand the parent cuddling a child that's "too old" in the middle of the hall at church. They've dropped everything and are just sitting there cuddled up and rocking to calm the world down for a moment.

Mom's a bee whisperer, you see. She knows how to create calm.

You understand the child wearing a brown football sweater in the middle of summer. 

It's the piece of clothing that feels best to him and it makes the chalkboard screeching go away for a moment. It's familiar and it's loved. It's one less variable in the world... and now you understand.

You just might understand the family that is so excited to receive your invitation to the party, but still leaves early and without warning every time. Right as things become the most fun, they are out the door. You understand to keep sending the invitations, but now you know why they must leave early.

That "annoying little kid" at the doctor's office... the one running laps in the waiting room- he's a little too wound up and a lot too loud. What used to be a bother, you now can smile at and know that it is taking every fiber of his being to wait that long for an event that terrifies him to his core.

You can understand that a child who appears able to pull off everything you are asking of him just might meltdown for hours after pulling off said tasks... because he spent every bit of sensory energy that he had trying to rise to the moment in front of him.  He wanted to please you.  He tried so hard.  And he can for a moment, but then his body takes revenge on his efforts and he collapses into a puddle of tears.

The not knowing what's next OR the knowing what's next, the waiting, and variables of the experience have this family on pins and needles... and now you that you know, you can give a smile in the middle of the commotion.  

You can understand the panic rising in that mother's eyes when she knows what is coming next, but is far too tired to explain it one more time.  

You can be sensitive to the fear in that father's heart and the tear that he tries not to shed.  

You can hear them.  I beg of you to please hear them... what they say and what they cannot even begin to utter.

Awareness allows the world to loves these families more.  It allows us to reach out beyond the walls that autism can create and get to the heart of the families that are impacted by it.

It allows EVERY DAY to be World Autism Awareness Day.

It's not a license for these kids to have life without boundaries. It just allows us to collectively chunk the boxes that we ask people to put themselves into.

It broadens our horizons. Awareness allows us to assume the best and fire the "shoulds" in our world.

Because, face it, my friend... the "shoulds" are the killers of hope.

When the word "should" gets the hammer, the world opens up for the families of autism, but it also opens up for the rest of you, too. What a beautiful day it is when we no longer have to sit on the throne of judgment and say, "If that were my child, I would....".

You see, autism doesn't mind attacking my child's speech. There are bad manner words that might make it into a conversation. Most of the time it's because he heard it from someone in the world who didn't know he is an undercover parrot.

(PS.  Dear lady in the yogurt shop that got sang to the other day "Hey, sexy lady!", I assure you that I did not teach my 5 year old the words to Gangnam Style.  While the words I taught him were "Hey, baby, baby!", the rest of the world is not so careful.  With that said, I'm glad he reminded you of your awesomeness. It seemed to make you smile and that is the mission field God has called my baby to... bringing the world a smile.)

Autism doesn't mind creating a full scale meltdown in the middle of God and everybody... on any given day at any given moment. The baseball stadium, the county fair, the grocery store... these are all lovely places. We have to plan our times there with the utmost of care, though, knowing that autism is a step away and could hit at any moment.

Here's the good news, though. We don't plan our lives around the fear that initially attacked our family with the diagnosis of autism. God plans our steps. Jeremiah 29:11 promises me that He has a hope and a future for my child... for our family... and that it is for GOOD and not for harm.

So, there may be a meltdown. There may be a sweater in weather that screams for a sleeveless shirt. Pretty ladies in the yogurt shop may get to hear how sexy they are via 5 year old song.

We're still going to show up. Showing up is our own personal cure for autism that the medical community calls incurable. It doesn't change the nature of the diagnosis, but it does change our hearts... and just sometimes, it changes the world around us.

There are also days where we won't show up.  Days when we intuitively know that the world is just too hard or an activity is just too much.  Trust our intuition, but please let us know that we were missed. The fact that we are not there doesn't change the fact that we want to be.

Thank you for being aware on World Autism Awareness Day and every day. There are world changers all around you. Some have autism. Some have other intricacies and exceptionalities. As the bible says, "...the greatest of these is love."

Love is what we're called to regardless of the person beside us and their flavor of exceptionality.
Everyone isn't a bee whisperer, but EVERYONE can love., 2013 (reposted 2015)
Twitter: @ChristieAitken
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  1. Christie, This is such a great article! You made autism much easier to understand. Everyone knows someone who is living with autism daily. Not understanding is what makes people uncomfortable. Thank your great insight!


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