Kristy, Lijy’s Mum: Everyone communicates. In raising Lijy, I’ve really come to appreciate that there is so much more to communication than spoken words. Lijy has a gift of warmth and love. The way he expresses these things takes my breath away. That’s not just a proud mum’s opinion either!
In the words of almost everyone who meets him, Lijy is an absolute joy. He loves life in a way that is quite contagious. People cannot help but smile when they watch him for more than a few minutes. He also has many varied struggles, but he happily laughs, flaps and spins his way through life. He adores nature, and we are convinced that he communicates with the trees, ocean, birds and other animals.
Lijy is a skilful gymnast (especially on the trampoline), has amazing memory, attention to tiny detail, and a love for numbers and music. When all other means of communication aren’t working for him (e.g., hand over hand, PECS, communication device with the LAMP program), music is something that never fails. He seems to learn best through music, which appears to be his language. He has songs to wake up to, songs to get ready for school, songs for the drive in the car, songs to help transition from place to place and the most important of all – bath time and bedtime songs.
Everyone who knows and works with Lijy believes he does understand far more than any of us realise, and we believe wholeheartedly that one day he will find the best way to convey his thoughts to others. In the meantime, we will keep following his lead and trying to learn from him.
To me, as a parent, Autism is an intrinsic part of who Lijy is and that is a beautiful thing. I would not want Lijy to be anyone other than exactly who he is. Autism means that Lijy sees and experiences the world differently to me, and I give thanks daily that he is patient enough to try to share his view with me.
Sadly, outside of our wonderful bubble of accepting friends, family and teachers, I don’t think society as a whole is very inclusive yet. Often when we are out and about, we get looks of judgement, harsh words and a complete lack of understanding. It saddens me as a parent, but I am comforted by the fact that Lijy appears to be completely confident and proud of the fact he is Autistic. Everything about the way he carries himself yells “I am proud and nothing you say or do can bring me down!”
We hear negative language around Autism and other disabilities all the time. It’s time for people to realise that disability and Autism are not dirty words. We need to flip the narrative. Yes, there can be a lot of difficulties; most of these happen because society doesn’t provide the right support and understanding.
Autism should not be feared but embraced. When Lijy was diagnosed, the most common phrases I heard were “he can’t” and “he will never …” Now we know that, with the right support and mindsets, he can and maybe someday he will!
That’s why we love the I CAN Network. They not only support Autistic young people in such a powerful way but educate and encourage society as a whole to understand the strengths that come from Autistic minds. With all of the talk of deficits that typically surrounds Autism, I CAN is like a breath of fresh air! I can’t wait for Lijy to be old enough to take part.
If people reading this want to make our world more inclusive for Lijy and other Autistics, the first step is being more open to listening to Autistic voices from all different backgrounds. And if you really want to have a broader appreciation of what Autism is and how amazing the community can be, seek out lots of Autistic friends! Ever since my son was diagnosed, I have surrounded myself with his tribe. I am so much better for it. I believe Lijy is too, as I have a better understanding of how he sees the world and how I can help support him to be the best he can be … though he is doing a pretty awesome job all by himself!