According to Autism Speaks, “Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.”

One out of every 68 children has autism.

I have interviewed Tawana Lynch, who is a mother and a proud member of PTK, and asked her about her experience with autism. Here are her responses:

What is Autism?

“Autism is a journey that I didn’t know anything about but it melts my heart every day. Our 9-year-old {son} Ian is nonverbal autistic and when he does have a conversation with us it’s like the best sound in the world! Autism is a journey that you can’t begin to describe to someone with them understanding. It’s a journey that I absolutely love that I wouldn’t change for the world but I would change the world for more autism awareness.”

How would you describe this journey?

“Absolutely wonderful. The only part of the journey that’s painful is seeing our son meltdown in frustration because he can’t tell us what’s wrong. Or when we go out and people stare. It can be heartbreaking. It can be wonderful, it can be frustrating. But I look at our son and think “man, this little boy wakes up with a smile on his face and a heart full of love,” and that makes the journey wonderful.”

How do you deal with the judgment about him being different?

“The ones that judge him and stare and make comments are the ones that are different. Not Ian. If you don’t know about something you should research things. Don’t be quick to judge. I promise that Ian is a lot smarter than the judgmental people out there. So I just raise as much autism awareness as possible when possible.

"I am a firm believer that children like Ian are not any different than you or I. They just need extra encouragement and understanding and patience. They are very gifted. They are a blessing. Ian has taught me patience and understanding in ways that I didn’t know was possible. It is a difficult and crazy wonderful journey. But it’s worth it.

"They are the ones different not Ian. I refuse to keep him in the house in fear of them. We go out with our heads held high and proud. I’m very proud of Ian and his accomplishments! As a matter of fact, he won silver in individual skills in regionals Special Olympics.”

How is someone with autism different than someone who doesn’t have autism?

"He’s normal... he’s no different from me or you."

There’s been a lot of different articles that mention different things cause autism. What do you think causes autism?

"I honestly think that no one truly knows what causes autism. I think that it could be genetic but I don’t think anyone truly knows."

What effects does it have on your child?

"Well, he’s nonverbal. Doesn’t like eye contact. He likes his space. He has sensory overloads. But he’s like a sponge and absorbs everything he sees and hears."

Do you think anyone with autism has potential? Why?

"Why would they not have potential? Yes, they have potential! If you look up famous people with autism you would be surprised who had."

What tips do you give to someone that is dealing with autism?

"Be very patient and understanding. They are not alone."

What do you want to tell people who don’t know about autism?

"Autism awareness is very important. Do research. If you approach an autistic child and ask them a question they may or may not answer you. They are not rude. They don’t feel comfortable answering at times. They calm themselves by making sounds, dancing around, and things. They understand more than they are given credit for. They are children that have feelings too."

Why does autism matter?

"Why doesn’t it? Why do people who don’t have it matter? Because we all have something we’re dealing with. Because this is something that should matter. It’s something people don’t understand. And should be known about."

April 2nd is autism awareness day so please wear your blue shirt!