This weekend I spent some time with Tony Robbins, the well-known teacher, speaker and motivator.
This wasn’t a personal meeting, although listening to Tony always has a personal effect on me. I attended his 5-day virtual event, “New World, New You Challenge.”
Day 4 was all about relationships.
In the middle of some very intense work with a couple on stage he said it. The statement that rang so true for me:
“Appreciation is when suffering stops!” – Tony Robbins
YES!! This is true in romantic relationships, but it is also true in relationship to life with all people, including those on the autism spectrum.
Notice he didn’t say “awareness is when suffering stops.”
Autism awareness is an antiquated concept.
Just about everyone is aware of autism’s existence today. The awareness advocates have successfully accomplished their mission!
“The time for awareness is over…It’s time to move on to a much more powerful and impactful understanding.”
Awareness is also a very distant and disengaged perspective from the viewpoint of those of us who live with autism in ourselves or a loved one.
In many ways, it borders on offensive. As if being aware that some of us have struggles with autism in ourselves or our family members somehow makes things better or easier. Sometimes it even feels like autism has become pity-magnet.
The time for awareness is over.
It’s time to move on to a much more powerful and impactful understanding. And that more powerful and impactful understanding is brought about by appreciation.
So what exactly is ‘appreciation?’
Appreciation means a deeper, more personal and more meaningful understanding of how autism influences the thinking and world view of the person on the spectrum. It gives us a compassionate and accurate understanding that allows us to effectively and respectfully remove roadblocks and barriers to the success of the person on the spectrum.
Their lives aren’t easy! But we CAN make their lives easier.
Appreciation is the first step toward true acceptance of this unique and talented group of people.
Appreciation is filled with respect for the individual on the spectrum.
Autism influences the thinking, world view, emotional experience, and functionality of the individual who has it, as well as the family members, authorities and associates with whom the person has contact.
“Appreciation ensures that we have a clear enough understanding to meet people with autism where they are…”
Autism is considered a “social disability,” and as such requires a social solution. It requires much more than just change on the part of the person on the spectrum.
Appreciation sets us up for creating appropriate and effective supports and encourages us to personally offer a little grace to someone on the spectrum who responds differently.
With appreciation we can understand and accept that response for the communication that it is, rather than reacting by trying to force conformity to the norm, or doing therapy to “fix” the “problem.”
Appreciation ensures that we have a clear enough understanding to meet people with autism where they are – or at least an appropriate part way.
As a nation and global community, appreciation opens up a new set of possible responses that can contribute to each individual on the spectrum, giving them the even footing they need to reach their full potential.
This is when the suffering stops for the individual on the spectrum.
Shifting our Focus
When we make the shift from awareness to appreciation, one of the natural consequences is that we make a life-changing leap across the chasm of pain, confusion, worry, fear, shame, blame, anger, upset, argument and other negative emotions.
This is when the suffering stops for the rest of us.
So much of that negativity just disappears by itself when you have a deeper understanding of the realities of life with autism. If you have a family member, particularly a child, on the spectrum this is the greatest relief of all!
“It starts with education – understanding the individual with autism and your reactions to them.”
When parents, siblings, extended families, teachers, schools, professionals, therapists and the general public begin to know and recognize the way autism influences a person’s life and behavior, we will begin to see the understanding that is required before we can effectively support, integrate and appreciate, and even thoroughly enjoy our relationships with those with autism.
So, if you are wondering… “How do I upgrade from awareness to appreciation?”
It starts with education – understanding the individual with autism and your reactions to them.
It’s not rocket science.
In fact, it’s not even horribly difficult when you come from appreciation.