Social media is full of people lighting it up blue, posting multi-colored memes, having tattoos or taking part in fundraisers.
This is all great, I'm a big supporter. Awareness is a fantastic start, but this needs to be the first step. It's easy to be aware of something without really understanding it, and understanding and acceptance has to be the bigger goal.
Back in 2009 I had no real idea of what autism was. I'd seen "Rain Man," that was it. I'd never met anyone who was autistic, and I never expected it to play any part in my life. The year before, my first son Jude was born, and I was happily settling into fatherhood.
By the time Jude was 18 months old he had been diagnosed with autism. Three years later, my second son Tommy would also be diagnosed, again at 18 months old. Autism quickly became part of our everyday life. It became our normal.
To celebrate Autism Awareness Month, here are 20 things I've learned about autism over the last few years that I think are important. They're all from my point of view as a parent of two children on the autism spectrum. They include what I have learned from them and what I have learned from others in the autism community on our journey.
1. Autism can affect how a person communicates with and relates to others. This might lead to them being seen as "anti-social," which isn't always the case. They may find it difficult to express what they need and how they feel, which can make life extremely challenging at times
2. Autism is a spectrum. While a lot of people with a diagnosis will share some common traits, autism will affect them in different ways. Everybody is different. This may make it more difficult to understand, but it's important you do. Treat everyone with autism as you would anyone else, as individuals.