Member Spotlight: Lindsay Williams
Each month, we invite DBC members with a connection to our theme to share their personal experiences with us. Interested in sharing your story with the DBC community? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi Lindsay! Can you introduce yourself to our members?
Hello, DBC members! My name is Lindsay Williams, and I am a Kentucky girl who loves to read. I am a high school English teacher, mother to two little boys, wife to a pretty awesome guy named David, and a part-time professional photographer. I’m doing my best to set a positive example of acceptance and caring for my high school students and raise my sons, Gavin (7) and Finley (5), to be good humans. I am @bibbidibobbidibookworm on Instagram, and I also post full book reviews on my blog at bibbidibobbidibookworm.com.
Why is this month's topic near and dear to your heart?
This month’s topic is not only near and dear to my heart, but it’s a major part of my life, and awareness and acceptance of those with unique abilities is something I fight for as much as possible. My youngest son, Finley, was diagnosed with autism exactly one month before his second birthday. He is now five, and he is nonverbal, but he is also making great strides every single day. There are so many misconceptions about autism, and one of my greatest wishes is that Finley grows up in a world that understands and accepts him. If more people could understand autism and try to enter HIS world instead of expecting him to fit into theirs, the world would be such a better place. I’m so happy that the DBC chose this particular topic because it helps make that happen a little bit, and not just for those with autism!
What have you learned from raising Finley?
How much time do you have? ;)
I really couldn’t put everything I have learned from raising Finley into words, and just thinking about how much better my life is because of him brings me to tears. By far, the best things I have learned from raising Finley have been empathy, patience, and acceptance. Understanding his strengths and his struggles has made me look at everyone I encounter differently, and not only has this made me a better person in general, but I have definitely become a better teacher as a result as well. Also, before Finley, I really didn’t know much about autism at all. While I’m still no expert, by any means, I have become so much more informed about how much differently autism presents itself in each individual and the desperate need for acceptance of those individuals.
How is Gavin's life different from those of kids who don't have siblings on the autism spectrum?
There are parts of Gavin’s life that are made more difficult by having a sibling on the autism spectrum, for sure. Gavin doesn’t have the little brother my husband and I always imagined he would have. Finley very rarely initiates any sort of play with Gavin. He doesn’t talk to him, play Legos with him, or idolize him, like most little brothers do their big brothers. However, there are many more parts of Gavin’s life that have been enriched by Finley. Gavin is only seven years old, but he already understands the importance of accepting and loving others, especially those with differences. He is still just a kid, and they are still brothers, so he still gets irritated with Finley for some of his behaviors from time to time; however, I know that despite all the ways I might be screwing up as his mother, he’s going to grow up to be such a better person because Finley is his brother.
I asked Gavin this same question (in Gavin-friendly terms), and he said, "Sometimes I have to make him play with me. Also, he has autism, and he likes Batman and Superman, and I like both of them too. And he likes Robin, and I like Robin. I like that he acts wild, like me, but also he likes funny things that I like.” :)
What would you like people who are unfamiliar with raising an child with autism to know?
For both my husband an myself, the most important thing we want people to know is that for people with autism who are nonverbal, being nonverbal doesn’t equate to a lack of understanding or intelligence. Finley might not always act like he understands, but he does, and my heart breaks a little every time someone talks about him like he isn’t there or acts like he isn’t capable of learning just like other kids his age. I also want people to know that kids with autism are all different. They should never be afraid to ask questions, because most parents are happy to talk about how autism affects their children, if it means helping others interact with them. I also want them to know that stereotypes about autism are exactly that—stereotypes. Perhaps the most difficult thing about autism is dealing with other people, because for every person in the world who is loving and accepting of my sweet boy, there is another who is uncomfortable around him or judgmental of his behavior, usually because of stereotypes they believe about people with autism.
Are there any other resources you'd recommend for readers who want to learn more about this topic?
There are a lot of great resources for people who want to learn more about autism. Perhaps the most well-known is Autism Speaks (autismspeaks.org), which provides tons of information and support for individuals and families of those with autism. The Autism Society of America (autism-society.org) also provides a lot of great information for anyone who wants to learn more!