Autism is Not an April Disorder
So it’s that time of year again. April. Where most think of spring, rain, flowers, and maybe even Easter when they think of this time of year, the Autism community has something else on their mind as well. Autism Awareness Month and of course World Autism Awareness Day, which was yesterday.
Over the last handful of years I’ve taken both pretty seriously and dived in with both feet to help intensify the awareness efforts for my son and our local Autism community. I must admit though that this year I am not so eager to engage. Is awareness important? Yes, of course. Do I still believe we all need to do our part to help others understand Autism? Absolutely. Do we still have a mission to help spread acceptance and compassion? Always. So why am I not into the big awareness month showcase this year? Simply put, it’s because I’ve seen it be more of a fiasco or temporary source of entertainment more so than I’ve seen it work as an actual long term tool that gets us closer to the goals we’re trying to reach.
This month the general public is going to see a lot of blue, a lot of puzzle pieces, a lot of special events, and companies offering special products all in the name of “Autism awareness”. What good does it really do though? What lasting effect has it really had? What happens when this month is over and the blue dies back down to normal, the special products are now “last month’s fad”, and the special events are simply a fading memory now? What happens when the general public goes back to their everyday lives?
The stares return. The comments resume. The discrimination rises again. Kids are once more seen as “brats” or “out of control” even though just a few short days or weeks ago they were seen as “possibly struggling” or “maybe Autistic”. The parents are cast to the side again with their “unruly kids”. They’re left out or forgotten by friends due to their lack of flexibility and/or lack of time and ability to go to parties or even simple social outings like grabbing a cup of coffee. The kids running off in a store, at a park, or at an event are no longer cared about by those they are passing. The parents struggling to calm a meltdown or keep their child safe during a sensory overload are no longer supported as much as they once were while the onlookers choose instead to pass judgement on the apparent lack of parenting skills present.
This is a problem! If awareness has been reduced to just a few flashy events, some special products, and a month on the calendar, we’ve FAILED. Autism is year round. 24/7. Every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year for the REST OF LIFE. My son is important and precious and doing the best he can just as much on May 1st as he is on April 2nd or 10th or 24th. The date on the calendar doesn’t change who he is or what he faces in life. My son is Autistic. Period. He’s not April Autistic, or Special Events Autistic, or Special Products Opportunity Autistic. He’s Autistic. He and others like him need our support, understanding, compassion, and awareness year round.
Let’s take back Autism awareness to what it needs to be. A year round, never ending, practical, and everyday type of effort for the benefit of those with Autism. Let’s work together to make a real difference; one that will last.