For the last couple of days I've had blue fingernails.
Which is not like me at all. Mainly because I don't have nice fingernails, but also because I'm not really the 'blue nails' type. (don't ask me what type the 'blue nails type' is, 'cause I dunno - do you really think this is the time to discuss that??
But I did do it for a reason. Someone out there had declared the 5th of July to be Autism Awareness Day. (Not that it actually was - the real Autism Awareness Day was on the 2nd of April). Actually, it was someone on Facebook who had declared that today would be a 'paint your nails blue for autism' day. And I always do what Facebook tells me...
These days, there wouldn't be too many of us that wouldn't know someone with autism. I'm not sure whether it's more widespread, or more easily diagnosed, but either way, autism is something that everyone needs to know about. I didn't really know much about it until it became a part of my life. But I'm glad it did.
Anthony's brother, Christopher (the second oldest after Anthony) has autism. He's the same age as me, so he hasn't grown up in the age of autism units and increased community awareness.
In fact, I think it's fair to say that his journey (and that of his family) has been a bit of a struggle.
When Christopher was first diagnosed with autism, his mother (my mother-in-law) was told to 'forget about him' - put him in an institution, because he was never going to be 'normal'.
Well of course she didn't (would you??), and that started a long line of doctors, carers, schools and community members who variously ignored it, wrote it off, and sometimes, helped.
But mostly it was her and the family, doing whatever they could. Because Anthony was the oldest, he did a lot of the helping (ever seen The Black Balloon? I haven't but apparently the scenes where Thomas chases Charlie - in his underwear - down the street are fairly typical of Anthony's pre-teen and teen years).
It has been hard, but it's fair to say that the doctors way back then were wrong. Because Christopher strikes me as pretty 'normal'. In that he lives on his own, has his driver's license and an arts degree. He's a talented artist that has had several exhibitions here in Canberra.
Sometimes he talks a lot, and he can get fixated on things, but he can be very fun to be around, and he's a very important part of our family life. My kids love him, and he loves them too. He was devastated when Sam died (we all were), and he spent many months creating this mural in Sam's honor:
mural we put up last year.
Just like anything else that makes us 'just a little different' to whatever normal is, autism is something that deserves a little bit of understanding and a lot of 'awareness'. Hence the blue nails...