My 8 year old daughter has autism. She attends, and is doing very well at, mainstream school.
April 2nd is autism awareness day around the world and the start of autism awareness month.
My daughter's school are not doing anything to mark this at all.
There will be no autism awareness assembly.
There will be no dress down day for an autism charity.
There will be no information given to the children at all about it at any time that month.
Most parents of autistic children would be bitterly disappointed.
It seems like a missed opportunity as more and more children with autism attend mainstream schools in line with current policies of inclusion.
What people often forget though is that inclusion does not just mean more autistic children attending mainstream it also means more children will a huge mix of abilities and cultures attending mainstream.
Inclusion means everyone is welcomed and treated equally. It means classes have an eclectic mix of children of varying backgrounds, abilities and cultures in order to enhance the learning of everyone.
In practice my daughter has four children in her own class who do not have English as a first language.
She has children with learning disabilities, gifted children, children from all over the world and some with various medical conditions.
It is a rich learning environment where all are nurtured and all educated to the best of their ability.
My daughter is no more special than any other child in that class just because she has autism.
In fact the children in her class do not even know she has autism because there is no need for it to be known.
Exactly the same with the children who have asthma or the child who has ADHD.
Difference is totally normal and not something that is singled out for attention.
That is how it should be.
I want her to be celebrated and honoured for who she is NOT in spite of or because she has autism.
How would we feel if a child in her class was singled out because they have a different skin colour and it was mentioned their achievement was extra special because of their skin colour?
Or when a child did well at spelling the school singled them out as being 'extra special' because they come from a single parent family?
If this was done we would cringe. We would feel uncomfortable and even upset.
I feel a little bit like that about autism awareness month in relation to my daughter.
I am not ashamed she has autism just like I am not ashamed of her strawberry blond hair or her sparkling blue eyes.
I am not against anyone knowing she has autism either. I openly blog about it and talk about it.
BUT if her school were to mark autism awareness month in a big way and single her out she would feel uncomfortable and so would I.
Everyone is different. Everyone is beautiful. My daughter is wonderful because of who she is not because she has autism.
Autism does not define her.
Please understand I am all for autism awareness. I have made autism awareness videos, written poetry, done media interviews and I blog weekly about autism.
The world needs to know more about autism to be more tolerant and understanding.
But singling a child or children out in a mainstream school during autism awareness month is not always the best way to do this in my opinion.