Every April friends and family of those who know and love an individual with Autism proudly declare and invite others to spread Autism Awareness. They – myself include – “Light-it-Up-Blue”, wear blue shirts, and post startling facts about Autism that most people can’t put into perspective or don’t care to. Is this really Autism Awareness? This is a question I’ve been asking myself for quite some time.
I recently came across an article written by two young men known as the Asperger Experts. (Their link is below.) I think their juxtaposition that the aforementioned methods of spreading awareness are indeed well-intended, but rather fruitless. So where does that leave us? Do we stop wearing blue and turning on blue porch lights? Does the world stop illuminating buildings to show solidarity with those on the Spectrum? Certainly not, according to my teenager (who has Autism and loves this article I’ve written). But awareness is more than this. It’s more than the plastering of the color blue and definitely more than a random smattering of factoids at people who can’t put those facts into context. That’s a waste of effort for all of us.
Instead, we need a grass roots movement of everyday people – starting with those who have Autism (ASD), their parents, teachers and more – who are willing to explain just exactly what autism is on the local, state, federal and global level. I see bloggers doing this, but I believe it takes more than a single person acting alone. Furthermore I propose we discuss within these constructs:
– how ASD develops and how to spot it early
– the importance of, and how to access, Early Intervention Services
– education accommodations/rights for children with Individualized Education Plans and other school/education options, inlcuding Post-Secondary Transition
– how ASD impacts individuals, families, schools, communities in the short and long term
– the Americans with Disabilities Act, rights and practices for working adults
– information regarding the facts and myths surrounding ASD and vaccines, and the fallout from lack of vaccinations
– and most importantly, that ASD is not the end of life as we know it for those whose lives are touched by it.
Individuals with ASD are not “suffering” nor are we charged with “fixing” or “curing” anyone on the Spectrum. The word “tolerance” should be removed from your vocabulary, for a person with Autism shouldn’t even be thought of in such a way. And by no means should we ever try to “walk in their shoes” because we cannot even begin to. All we should do is advocate for those who cannot for themselves, assist other families in finding their way, and accept everyone as an inherently beautiful and unique individual. No two people, whether they have Autism or not, are alike.
Autism Awareness should not just be about standing in solidarity and being proud of yourself or your loved one. It should be a time to teach and guide others. When Autism is no longer treated as a mental illness and instead as a delay in neurodevelopment, when children and adults are no longer ostracized for being “freaks” because of their associated behaviors, when access to specialized interventions are available to all who need them, and there’s no longer a need for World Autism Awareness Day; we’ve done our job. What part are you willing to play to make this happen; to make people more Aware?
Thank you for reading and be blessed.
-Sarah Hartman, mother of a full Spectrum child
& loud-mouth Advocate for acceptance and understanding
*Here are links to information you should know. And please ask me anything. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll be sure to find it.
Ohio Department of Education/Special Education:http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Special-Education
Help Me Grow: http://www.helpmegrow.ohio.gov/
ADA Dept. of Labor: http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/disability/ada.htm
CDC/Vaccination info: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/topics.html