It’s World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). The Independent has a very accessible piece debunking 5 myths regarding autistic people; it takes only two minutes to read. The piece also reports that in the UK 87% of people living with autism think the public has a bad understanding of the condition.
While my family has also come across a lot of ignorance over the years – some of which hurt badly – there are also wonderful strangers who have restored faith in what is possible. So, I want to dedicate a post to those people who are reaching out to people with autism, and tell them how important it is what they do.
As long-time readers of this blog now, my oldest son has autism/is autistic*. About a year ago, he started to develop a strong interest in flower decorations. Luckily we have a little garden with lots of green and some colored flowers, so he collects what he finds there, and what he finds in parks and woods, which he then uses to make creative pieces. He loves watching clips on YouTube by flower artists (as I call them), and combines what he sees there with his own ideas.
Not only is he extremely lucky that I have a sister who, as a hobby, gives workshops working with flowers, but my son by now also knows all the flower shops in our neighborhood. In the beginning I held my breath how those shop owners and florists would react to his insistent and detailed questioning and the somewhat unusual requests he puts to them. But they have been absolutely wonderful. They are loving, patient, and are giving him all sorts of stuff that they no longer need. My husband often goes shopping in a supermarket where next-door is a florist; and the florist is happy to have our son in the shop while my husband does the shopping. In fact, that florist has now told our son that if he passes by at Saturday at closing time, he gets all the flowers that haven’t been sold that week (and that he can’t keep till the next working day). The first time my son went there at Saturday 5 pm, he was over the moon; and so were his parents, delighted at the kindness of strangers.
None of these florists are our friends of acquaintances, and we weren’t even regular customers. They have simply seen a boy with a strong interest, and are reaching out to let this special boy flourish.
Florists of Utrecht: thank you!
I hope that other autistic people and parents of children with autism have similar experiences. The world isn’t autifriendly, but individuals can make a difference.
*people on the spectrum have different views on whether the right thing to say is “a person who has autism” of “an autistic person”. I have heard good arguments for both positions, and haven’t yet been able to make up my mind which position I endorse. Hence, in this post, I use both terms interchangeably.