We are all so good at using words these days, it seems. Social media has transformed our online vocabularies, at the same time transforming us into a society that apparently knows everything about everything! During our recent weekend away over the Easter long weekend, I spent time pondering two words, ‘acceptance’ and ‘awareness’. These words have become commonplace in news headlines and social media posts, suggesting that people think about these words before using them. I wonder if everyone who uses these two words understands how they translate into practice. While driving around NSW, wrangling with children and eating chocolate, I was prompted to think more deeply about these words and the impact that they can have on the lives of individuals with additional needs or disabilities – and their families and support teams – if practised effectively.
Put simply, ‘awareness’ is the knowledge of a situation or a fact. For our family, people ‘know’ that we have a son with ASD. Our son’s paediatrician diagnosed him with ASD Level 3; for some people ‘in the know’ this diagnosis will offer an insight into the challenges that he can face in some environments. The word ‘acceptance’ (again, put simply), is the receiving of something that is offered. For people to ‘accept’ our son, they need to see him as a unique individual. To compare our son to other 11-year-olds will lead only to frustration. True acceptance often comes when we discard the rule book and look solely at the individual in front of us. This is when the magic happens, allowing us to focus on an individual’s strengths, rather than their deficits.
Over the years, we have been lucky enough to encounter and have in our lives many people who have showered our son and our family with acceptance. Consistent with the definition of ‘acceptance’, these wonderful people have proven they are willing to receive something that is offered. That offer came in the form of an absolutely gorgeous little boy who loves nothing more than to use people’s clothes dryers, ask people about their clothes dryers, ask people their names and single out Ford Rangers by yelling at full volume, “there’s a Ranger!!” Just for the record, those cars must be spectacular. as we lost count at 928 while driving around NSW. I was thinking of asking Ford if they need a marketing rep, but evidently after our road trip experience they have their marketing well and truly under control!