Sunday, April 1, 2012

Autism Awareness and Autism Action

Almost every time I tell someone The Boy has autism, they tell me the story of who they’ve met (or heard of) who has autism. Sometimes they ask questions, the most often asked "Do you think it was vaccines?" (I have my own personal thoughts about this, and I gladly share them- but that is not the purpose of THIS blog). They share their own experiences, and hopefully take something away from the conversation to share with someone else. Most of the stories I hear are of someone with unusual skills or abilities. I am often asked what my son's "thing" is. Is he amazing at math? Does he memorize important dates? And while he does have a "thing" (dinosaurs) it is not always a positive thing.  Yes- the memorization skills are amazing, but the inability to move on from the subject has hindered him at times.  I appreciate and will answer any and all questions that I am able to- and I will refer people elsewhere if I do not have the answer.

So  now that it is Autism Awareness Month- I have to ask myself  exactly what is it that I want people to be aware of?   Is it the rising numbers? Now 1 in 88.  Is it the sad state of our education system and it's inability to properly help our kids and not seclude, restrain or hurt them? (This is a broad statement- there ARE many great schools and teachers out there that advocate tirelessly for autistic students)  Do I want people to be aware that not every person with autism is "Rainman", that savantism only comprises a very small percentage of people on the Autistic Spectrum? How about that not all autistic people are non verbal- MANY (including The Boy) are very verbal- even though The Boy's words didn't escape him until he was 4 years old. How about the fact that not all people with autism hate to be touched? Many love physical contact and crave the sensory input  from hugs and cuddling.  How about that autism doesn't "look" like anything- that most of our beautiful children are physically indistinguishable from their neurotypical peers, and most likely you have met an adult on the spectrum and didn't even know it.  Yes- these and so many other things are what I want people whose lives may never be touched by autism to be aware of.  

I want people to be aware that Autism Speaks is NOT the only organization you can donate to. In fact- since most of the money they bring in goes to high priced salaries. I highly encourage people to Google LOCAL charities and organizations if they wish to donate, either time or money. Here are a few national organizations that I support and encourage others to as well.

I admire The Boy and am proud of all of his accomplishmentst. He is  sweet, full of fun, and ready to try anything because he loves adventure and trusts his parents to keep him safe.  And while I do worry about his future (what parent doesn't?) I try to focus on today- and what is happening NOW.  I have lived in the past, and I have dwelled on the issue the future brings- but here and NOW is what is most important. Here and NOW is what will help shape his future. 

"It is a tragedy when children and adults with autism are not able to fully participate in their communities because they cannot access the services that would allow them to do so. The more we learn about autism, the more hope we have for treatment and the more tragic inaction becomes..." Former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)