by: Karen Mauldin, Crestview, Florida
The boy depicted in the drawing is my youngest son, Harrison, who is autistic. He is surrounded by puzzle pieces, as they are used to help promote and represent autism awareness. The colors are the ones used in all of the autism awareness ribbons I have ever seen. Puzzle pieces and their bright colors represent the diversity and varying traits of autistic people. The goal is to put these pieces together to understand autism better and, hopefully one day soon, what causes it. For now, I try to learn and understand everything I can about autism so I can try to help my son have the most wonderful life possible.
Embracing Our Differences has so much meaning to me and my family. Even though Harrison is different from what society calls "normal," we see him as perfect and wonderful. He is now 12 year old and knows that he is autistic; however he doesn't see himself as any different from anyone else in the world. When he started asking about his autism we told him, and still do, that autism makes him special and wonderful. We have learned over the years that we have to work hard to teach him things that we see and do as commonplace or common sense. As he grows and learns, he also becomes the teacher. He teaches us how to see things in new and different ways, not just to see outside the box. He has taught me, my husband, and his brother and sister what the words "unconditional love" truly mean. He faces people who do not understand his "oddities" and some of these people can be cruel and impatient.
The most amazing thing is that he treats everyone with extreme kindness and he imposes an infectious happiness no matter who the person is which is why I titled my drawing "The Face of Autism." You can't tell a person that is autistic by looking at him and he shows every day how all people should be treated. We can all learn a lot from him. He is autistic. He is my son. He is different and we love him more everyday for it.