Autism Awareness Day is April 2, 2009. Autism needs much more than a day. It needs a cure. Just because one cannot speak, does not mean they have nothing to say. Read about autism and get information about available resources. Also included are my thoughts, reflections and experience. See videos below.

autism 2

Autism Awareness

Tomorrow is Autism Awareness Day, Thursday, April 2, 2009. This has special meaning for me because, as I’ll explain below, my family has been touched by autism. It is good that we have a day set aside to educate people about autism. From personal experience, it’s helpful for people to get a better understanding of children who are different. Perhaps that will help rid us of the fear, stigma, stares and rudeness experienced by sick and/or different children.

From Autism Speaks, the following :

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person’s ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.Autism was first identified in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital. At the same time, a German scientist, Dr. Hans Asperger, described a milder form of the disorder that is now known as Asperger Syndrome (read more). These two disorders are listed in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as two of the five developmental disorders that fall under the autism spectrum disorders. The others are Rett Syndrome, PDD NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. All of these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, and also by repetitive behaviors. For more discussion on the range of diagnoses that comprise autism spectrum disorder, click here.

Autism spectrum disorders can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3, although new research is pushing back the age of diagnosis to as early as 6 months. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child’s failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills. Pediatricians may initially dismiss signs of autism, thinking a child will “catch up,” and may advise parents to “wait and see.” New research shows that when parents suspect something is wrong with their child, they are usually correct. If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait: speak to your pediatrician about getting your child screened for autism.

If your child is diagnosed with autism, early intervention is critical to gain maximum benefit from existing therapies. Although parents may have concerns about labeling a toddler as “autistic,” the earlier the diagnosis is made, the earlier interventions can begin. Currently, there are no effective means to prevent autism, no fully effective treatments, and no cure. Research indicates, however, that early intervention in an appropriate educational setting for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements for many young children with autism spectrum disorders. As soon as autism is diagnosed, early intervention instruction should begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.

Two of my grandchildren have Autism. They are brother and sister, ages 6 and 5. They have been in school 5 days a week since they were not quite 3, and have made amazing progress. They have completely different forms of Autism. One is extremely quiet and obsessive … the other is loud, temperamental and has neuro-deficits that God willing, can be overcome. Both are beautiful and very, very bright. They make us laugh, cry, pray and give thanks daily.

My daughter has worked at the same job for over 20 years now, full time, and still manages to wash and iron their clothes, go to all events involving them and reads to them daily. Her husband, the childrens’ father, watches them while she works. Right now, that is how it has to be for them to survive. The parent with the best insurance has to keep their job.

They receive no aid of any kind. I bring that up, as someone recently pointedly stated Autism was the *thing* of the day right now, and apparently some folks do get assistance. I sure would like to know where. She pays the mortgage, buys the food and gets the utilities paid before the due date … though sometimes that has come down to the minute, depending on whether or not she had to buy cough medicine or pull ups or something else needed.

She has no respite, except when I’m there. We dare not leave our babies with strangers in this day and age, and finding someone willing to watch two children with Autism without an agenda is impossible. When I am there, I am exhausted after a week, and if I stay for 2, I am physically laid up at home for a week when I get back.

She refuses to hide the children, as some seem to expect. She takes them to the park, other children make fun of them and their parents criticize her for exposing their children to someone different. She takes them grocery shopping with her, and someone usually will insult her because Grace has decided to act like she is being skinned alive. One time, someone held the door open for her, and she cried with gratitude. One time, at the park, a mother brought her children over to play with Grace and Edward. Its worth noting that both kind souls that did this were black. Why is that? I’m rambling, but I really wonder with all the rac!st bull crap out there, why we do not hear, from our experiences at least, that black people are by far kinder and more tolerant.

My daughter and I vehemently disagree on the reasons for Autism. I blame vaccines, she does not. I have a difficult time believing Grace has Autism, because she is as much a pain in the butt as her mother was at that age. Edward is very different … you can tell he is somewhere else, yet when he chooses can and does engage you in an interesting conversation. On occasion, he uses those *5 dollar* words, and we are astounded.

Please, folks … educate yourselves about Autism. Don’t assume because a child is different, that the child doesn’t have a heart, soul and working brain.

More than anything, could everyone just stop, once in awhile, and be kind?

Autism Awareness Day – Video