Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Of course, for families with Autism, every day is awareness day, but that’s besides the point.
The hard part is really figuring out how to explain to people about what Autism is and what we want them to be aware of.
It’s hard to know sometimes what to explain to people. Certainly, folks have an image of Autism from movies like Rain Man or from some of the better known personalities. They’ve generally seen news articles – especially of late, with the announcement last week of the new prevalence statistics in the United States – that talk about the effects of the disorder and how it is a spectrum… but I think that even with the 1-in-68 prevalence we’re seeing, a lot of people still never have run into someone who has Autism.
So what would I want folks to be aware of?
How about that, aside from some quirks, the Monster is mostly a normal kid. He likes toys, he likes people, he likes television. In his own way, he’s plenty social… even if he doesn’t quite know what to do with other people.
How about a little understanding that, sometimes, he’s going to react oddly to things. There’s no guarantee from moment to moment that the Monster is going to do what we expect – he sometimes lashes out for no reason, or will burst out in tears or start giggling for no apparent reason, and it’s a matter of trying to calm him while assessing what’s triggering the sudden change of emotion.
Or the fact that, despite his obvious communication issues, he’s generally well aware of what’s going on around him. Ask him guided questions, and he can tell you about his schedule in a basic method. He can tell you if he likes or dislikes things.
But most of all, I think I’d want folks outside of the community to just be aware of the fact that it’s a daily struggle – not just for the Monster to make himself understood and to work towards eventually being a productive member of society, but for the family around him as well. We’re also struggling to help him while balancing everything else in our lives. We have jobs and friends and hobbies and other children that are all set on the wayside when we have to deal with some of the issues surrounding our children who have Autism, and it’s a lot to keep organized. A little understanding goes a long way.
And hopefully, some day, we won’t need to have a ‘World Autism Awareness Day’ for people to understand all these things.