People Are Afraid of What they Do Not Understand

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I was super excited to hear about this event from a fellow mom and I asked her immediately how I could get involved.  I am a huge advocate for Autism awareness and I have participated in similar events in other states.  But I have wanted to take part in a local event for our area.  Admittedly, I am not the best runner but I cannot wait for April 18 to “Light Up Columbus”. 

I became a strong promoter for awareness soon after my son received his diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, when he was 3 ½.  He is my oldest child and as a first-time parent with him I was on the lookout for every milestone to be achieved at the exact right time.  And for the most part he hit them all.   But my motherly instinct kept telling me something was not right.   When he was not speaking at 18 months I took him to a developmental pediatrician and brought up my concerns regarding Autism.  The doctor told me he was too young to diagnose and that he saw no symptoms of Autism, but did suggest Speech Therapy.  He then started receiving this therapy and continued receiving it through military moves to 3 different states.  After months of therapy in NY, his Speech therapist suggested I get him revaluated by another developmental pediatrician.  After a 6 month long wait to see this specialist, we walked into the appointment and within 15 minutes my life was forever changed.

I knew in my heart Autism was a good possibility of why my son acted differently but the reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I definitely had a short period of grieving for what I thought I would be losing.   But when I got home from that appointment, I immediately went into action researching and discovered ABA therapy.  Even though the closest therapist was 3 hours a way, I was able to convince her to travel and he started this therapy within a few weeks of our doctor’s appointment. 

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When my son received his diagnosis, he could only say a few words and would have 30 minute long meltdowns once a day. Now he is almost 8, he is in a regular 3rd grade classroom and most people are shocked when I tell them he is on the Autism Spectrum.   My son is different from his peers but given the choice, I would not change any part of him.  In the knowledge I have acquired about people on the spectrum, I feel most of us have a lot we could actually learn from them.  My son is honest to a fault and he has more empathy for others than most adults I know.   He dedicates himself 110 percent to anything he endeavors to do.  He is an incredible artist and a math whiz.  His life plans in 3rd grade are to go to college, get married, to have a few children and to build cruise liners as a profession. 🙂 

Our journey to this point has not been easy.  Some people have been unkind to my son and to me.  But when I experience these negative interactions I use them as an opportunity to spread more awareness.  The phrase “people are afraid of what they do not understand” seems to ring true to me.  My philosophy is to educate anyone I meet about Autism so they can better understand my child and any other child on the spectrum.  I hope this event will allow me and every other participant to do just that!!!

Melissa Ibanez 

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