A big “Hooray!” for the Pacific Science Center and their Early Opening Hours on June 9th for people with Autism. People on the Autism Spectrum and their families can enjoy the Science Center with a focus on reducing sounds and lights that can lead to sensory overload. Click on the link above for all the info about the special hours.
I saw this and my first thought “Oh, that’s nice but we don’t need that.” We have a membership pass to the Pacific Science Center and go all the time. Matt is 20 and, through years of trial and error, we have mastered attending all kinds of events like this. As a family, we all know the drill to a point where it is no longer a drill and just how things are. We don’t think twice about it, it’s simply the way we function now. A “new normal” I’ve heard it called.
And then it sunk in a little. I was so distracted with thinking about us that I missed how monumental something like this is. Whether or not I feel that this is a useful accommodation for us, it is really quite remarkable that it exists at all. And I wonder if other people can see that too.
Almost 20 years ago my son was diagnosed as Autistic. Well, it was a little more complicated that than but we’ll save that for another day.
Autism was virtually unknown at that time. A few people vaguely recalled learning about it in psych classes in college and it wasn’t a great message: they are hopelessly damaged, unteachable, and should be institutionalized to save the rest of the family.
Then the movie “Rainman” came out and I had a little more I could use to help people understand “He’s kinda like Rainman, except he doesn’t count cards and he doesn’t care if his underwear comes from K-Mart or not.” Not exactly informative but it would at least give people a reference point to start from.
I am still amazed how I can say “Autism” anywhere today, and nobody asks me what it is! Nobody! That is so different from our early years. But I find it a mixed blessing. While the awareness is great, that fact that Autism, in its many forms, is so prevalent is disturbing.
This is huge to me. Things have come a long way from the days where I had to carry pre-printed cards to hand out to total strangers, explaining what Autism was and why my child was having a meltdown in public. Those really didn’t work. I eventually gave up and simply ignored the glares and slurs about my parenting skills. It’s hard to be engaged in an all-out total war to save your child and still be an ambassador in bringing Autism awareness to the public.
The idea that anything, let alone the Pacific Science Center, would set aside time for people on the Autism Spectrum to enjoy the exhibits is an amazing achievement. Look how far we have come! I hope our family can work our schedule out so we can attend it. Not because we need to, but because we want to.