Every month of the year is dedicated to one cause or another. Whether it’s for domestic violence awareness (October), heart disease prevention (February) or Alzheimer’s Disease research (November), there are so many diseases, conditions and syndromes out there clamoring for attention and recognition that there just isn’t enough months in the year to cover them all — which is why so many of them overlap.
But April is a special one for me and my family because April is Autism Awareness month.
The tricky thing about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is that the spectrum is so wide, that one individual’s experience with the disorder can be (and most likely is) entirely different from another’s. There is a saying “If you’ve met one kid with Autism, you’ve met one kid with Autism.” Everything is subjective.
Some families want a cure, others just want acceptance and societal accommodations for the Autism community. I think there’s truth in both.
As the mother of a son with ASD, I’ll admit that I have a tendency to bristle a bit when people talk about the need for a cure. Why? Because to have a cure for something insinuates that there’s something wrong. And every child is perfect in their mother’s eyes, just the way they are.
So what if my son lines his toy dinosaurs up by color instead of just playing with them? There’s nothing wrong with that. And who cares if he will only eat a specific brand and flavor of oatmeal for breakfast? No big deal. Large crowds and loud noises may freak him out a little, but maybe he’s just not a “people person.”
That’s OK, I’m not a fan of crowds myself.
But there’s another side.
What difference does it make that he didn’t start to speak until he was three-years-old and after months of therapy? A lot. What does it matter that he hits himself or that he’s pounded his head against the floors and walls until we physically stopped him? It matters. Who cares that if he was lost he could not ask for help or even tell a rescuer his name? I do.
My son is perfect in my eyes, he always will be. But being a mother also means you want the best possible life and future for your children and I can longer lie to myself and say that there’s nothing wrong; that his life wouldn’t be easier is he wasn’t affected by ASD. If there was a magical cure, we’d be the first in line.
But I understand the other points as well. Many adults on the spectrum take umbrage with the notion they need to be “cured.” ASD has become part of their identity and a “cure” would be tantamount to changing who they are as a person. I get it, I really do.
But I don’t have the luxury of knowing that with my son, everything will turn out OK — all I can do is hope. (Well, hope and enroll him in countless hours of speech, occupational and ABA therapies.)
The truth is that the majority of adults with Autism have major problems when it comes to finding employment, going to college and managing their day to day lives without assistance. Most — more than 80 percent — live at home with their parents or in group homes their entire lives. T
here is a reason why you’ve heard all about successful people on the spectrum like Dr. Temple Grandin or actor Dan Aykroyd — because it doesn’t happen very often.
The hard truth is that while April may be recognized as Autism Awareness Month, for me, my family and millions of other people — every month is Autism Awareness Month; every week is Autism Awareness Week and every day is Autism Awareness Day. It has to be.
One child in every 68 born today will be diagnosed with ASD. There aren’t enough blue lights in the world to raise the amount of awareness needed.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel and can be reached at [email protected] Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.