Well, I come to today with a hidden agenda and that is simply to take this opportunity to offer up my gratitude to Kim for being the person who first opened my eyes to autism. Before Kim and The Cookie Puzzle I knew near to nothing about autism for the simple and painful to admit reason that since autism had never intruded into and disrupted my world I'd never bothered to learn anything about it.
What I mean specifically by that is that within the circle of children I love none had ever been diagnosed within the autism spectrum. And when I say the circle of children I love I’m not only referring to my nieces and nephews and their children or even to the accumulated total of all my friend’s children. Nope. The circle of children I love is much wider, reaching out to include more than several thousand children who at one time were under my supervision and care during more than three decades serving as a Christian educator and children’s pastor.
Let me just sail that by you again. I’ve had the opportunity to be a significant adult in the lives of several thousand children over the span of three decades and yet to my knowledge none of those children fell within the autism spectrum. Not so much as one single child. Among thousands. Over 30 years.
It’s only recently I’ve come to realize that's impossible and given the statistic that 1 out of every 88 children falls within the autism spectrum there’s every chance that over the years I was in relationship with as many as 40 children living with some form of autism. 40 children on the autism spectrum and I was clueless and with far greater numbers of children going undiagnosed at the time, chances are I wasn’t the only one in the dark, confused and frustrated on how to reach a child who seemed too far away to reach even when they were right there standing in front of you.
Do I remember the child who could never look me in the eyes? The child who would sit for 30 minutes spinning the wheels on a toy car? The child who would scream uncontrollably when we switched up the regular routine and had the snack time before story time? The child who never interacted with the other children? Yep, those children were there over the years and just as I wonder if any of those who come to my mind and heart might have been among the 40 I wonder how I could have shaped my teaching and interactions with them more effectively had I only had some understanding of how the world was for them.
And that’s what brings me here and why I’m so crazy excited to support Kim in her dedicated commitment to spreading Autism Awareness because with awareness comes understanding and the more we understand the more compassionate, accepting and empowering this world will become for those children and adults living with autism.
Thank you Kim for your dedicated passion toward autism awareness, education, and advocacy. And thank you for opening this one pair of eyes.