Monday, April 2, 2012

Every Day is Autism Awareness Day

In a way, I wince when something has an "awareness day" - or a "month".  Too many times it means that the subject is paid attention to for that day or month, and then is ignored the rest of the time.

Unless the subject impacts you personally.

For too many families in this country, and maybe in this world, World Autism Awareness Day (kicking off Autism Awareness Month) has become a daily event, as these families struggle to cope with this developmental disorder that affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others.  The coping is physical, psychological - and financial

I first heard of autism over 35 years ago, when I seriously dated (and later married) a man whose younger brother has autism.  I had never heard of it before.  I didn't know anyone else who had it.  We seemed so alone.

Now...so sadly...that has changed.  If I have reason to tell someone about my brother in law, the reaction, many times is:
-my friend's child has autism
-my (young relative) has autism
-my child's friend has autism
-my grand child has autism

Or sometimes, it is "my (relative/friend) works with people who have autism/teaches children with autism/is studying to be a psychologist who will work with people with autism."

It's everywhere.  It isn't just on billboards; autism has come to a family near you.  I can remember estimates of live births resulting in someone with autism being one in 150, then one in 110.  Now it's one in 88.

And we still don't know exactly WHY.

And it's kind of funny (not ha ha funny, but just "funny") how my mother in law in a way was a pioneer (because she did not institutionalize her son), how she had to make it up as she went along, how she didn't get any support from the medical community (what she did get was criticism of her parenting skills.  Never mind that her other three children were somehow parented correctly).  And now, her son, in his 50's, is a pioneer in his own way.  And, we, the siblings and in laws of this man, are making it up as we go along, too.

It's scary, sometimes.

One day, all those children with autism being born these past few years are going to grow up and become adults.  Some will be able to live independently without much help. But many will need help, and some will never be able to live independently.  My brother in law is one of that last group.

And then what?  I think few people are aware of the crisis our country is facing, just a few years in the future.

Autism Awareness Month.  If your family has a member with autism, you are already aware.  If not, I fear you will be aware....too aware...all too soon.

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