In this modern world, with technology everywhere, and for everything, words are passed increasingly more frequent through text or email than through a letter, written, stamped and posted with care and that personal touch. Even facetime or skype allow a face to face conversation to take place across the miles without being there.
For many this new age technology works. Immediate and expected. But somehow, I find the absence of that piece of paper saddening. No longer do we see the artistry of handwriting as the writer scribes with their unique style across a piece of dedicated paper specific for the message, folded neatly in half to be inserted into the matching envelope. Care taken to address the document to the recipient and a stamp lovingly attached as if to represent a final seal for the contents. A walk to a nearby post-box in which to place this personalised document. Instead, a ‘ping’ and a “You have mail” alert on computer or smartphone pops up on the screen that we are endlessly obsessed at looking at.
Our son listens for that ‘clunk‘ of the letterbox, now all too infrequently, as the postie drops the mail through the door. Eager for me to collect the posted material from the doormat asking if one is for him. As always, we sort through a mountain of junk-mail, the hard copy version of the in-box spam. Traders eager for business and targeting our postal district. They get put into the recycle bin without a second look. I dislike unsolicited correspondence like this. We then sort through that junk-mail which is personally addressed. Equally annoying as this pile of unwanted correspondence needs shredding to ensure identity theft is prevented as much as possible. There then remains a small pile of one or two letters that do demand out attention and excite us to see who has written.
No ‘letter’ is there. Nobody has written to us, or our son. Bold letters at the top of the page signify NHS. Yet more correspondence summarising a previous hospital consultation with our son or a forthcoming appointment with one of his specialists. We now hold many files, filled with NHS correspondence. Each document telling us about our son disabilities. The reading of them is upsetting. Each document recalls just how severe his illness is. We know the detail and so nothing written is new to us, but to see it in print, is, still upsetting.
Through Christmas and our Son’s birthday, he will receive a card addressed to him and with excited eyes, he will open it and ask me to read it to him. A little bit of magic sent by someone who has put thought and care into it. An email or text just doesn’t capture that same feeling as holding a letter or card in your hands.
Back in the 1960’s a person with autism was considered un-educational and was institutionalised. Since that time, we have learned so much about autism and how it enables a person to see the world in such a unique and magical way. A way that neuro-typical people did not, and still do not, understand. Ignorance and fear in those years gone by had you locked up. Allegedly for their safety and the safety of the general public. Sadly even today, many years are spent in secure hospitals by people with autism, with little or no prospect of being released. From our our own experience, we can understand the frustrations with living with a person who has autism, but overwhelmingly the love that is shown, interaction and achievements reached, though different than you or I, are non-the-less equal to anything that anyone achieves. The eagerness for a letter addressed to our son landing on the doormat is an example. Key to happily living in the community with autism is awareness and understanding, and being prepared and able to offer support to others when they struggle.
In a few weeks we will be celebrating autism awareness. World Autism Awareness Day falls on April 2nd. This year, the theme is ‘Inclusion in the Workplace: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World‘