On April 2nd, Holland Bloorview is recognizing World Autism Awareness Day. To mark the day, we interviewed Susan Cosgrove, a mother of children with autism and a Holland Bloorview Family Leader.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
We are a single parent family of four. All of the kids are unique people who are developing in their own special way. The oldest – Liam 14, and the youngest – Phoenix 4, both have autism. They are as different from each other as two kids could possibly be. Together with their sister, Kaya who is 12 they make every day an adventure.
What do you wish people knew about autism?
I wish people knew how to comfortably and casually interact with people who have autism. When we are out in public, sometimes it’s obvious that we’re struggling to cope and we tend to draw attention. How people react to us can make or break our day. A smile, a kind word, holding the door so we can get through, sitting with my shopping cart so I can chase Phoenix down when he’s run off, or listening to Liam when he wants to tell you the same story for the tenth time; all of these are things that can make our day.
Judgement, stares and unwelcome comments are an example of the things that can bring our day down.
People sometimes think about autism in a negative way. What are some awesome things you want people to know about your kids?
They are just kids. They love their family and friends. Watching them explore their special interests is exciting. I wish I could see numbers the way that Phoenix does – he explores every possible aspect of them. I wonder where it will take him?
Liam has discovered that he has a natural talent for advocacy and public speaking. He has shared his experience with autism on TV, radio, online and with doctors, researchers, politicians and more. He’s a force to be reckoned with and is making the world a more accepting place for him and his peers.
How has Holland Bloorview helped you and your family?
Holland Bloorview has given all of my children an opportunity to be a productive member of their special community. Through Holland Bloorview Liam has been able to embrace who he is and share his special story and skills with policy makers and people from our community.
Why do you believe autism research is so important?
There are many unanswered questions when it comes to autism. Research on the biology of it can help healthcare providers to understand the best treatments, medications and interventions to provide people with autism with the quality of life that each one of us deserves.
We don’t always think about research on service delivery and system navigation but it is so important. Right now, navigating the doctors, therapies, education and financial supports is literally a full time job that falls on the parents. Researchers need to be looking at how to improve system navigation in order to reduce wait times and get kids the intervention they need.
Why have you chosen to be involved in family-supported groups and Family Leadership?
I want to learn everything I can about my community and have the opportunity to influence the future for my children.
If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change about how people see kids with autism?
They wouldn’t even notice.