When it rains, it pours. I’d just like to apologize to my fellow bloggers for putting up a third post today, and encourage you to scroll down and read their wonderful posts as well.
Today, April 2, is the first world autism awareness day. Many people are doing walks or other fundraisers for autism, and many news organizations are taking part by telling stories of autism and discussing what autism really is and means. I, of course, decided to celebrate world autism awareness day by blogging about it. Well, really, I celebrated world autism day by going to an ob appointment, trying to get my drivers license switched, trying to get poop out of the carpet, cleaning up a lot of throw-up, and going to cub scouts. But none of that has anything to do with autism, so I decided I better at least blog about it before the day was over.
A few months ago I wrote a guest post at MMW talking a little about my experiences with my son and his autism. Today I’d like to talk a little more about the facts of autism. The CDC currently estimates that 1 in 150 children have autism. That’s an extremely high number. Even scarier, some researchers believe that 1 out of every 17 boys 3 and under has autism. 1 in 17 is insane. The numbers are growing faster and faster all the time. Think about how many children you know, and what that statistic says about them. I know that in my ward (which is not a huge ward) there are at least seven children who have been diagnosed with some form of autism. Those are just the ones I know who I know have been diagnosed officially. I know there are others with related challenges, but I don’t know what their official diagnoses are. I also know that of the about 40 houses that are on the circle at the back of our neighborhood, there are at least three children with autism.
Autism seems to be everywhere these days, which is both scary and nice. The scariness comes from the fact that no one really knows what causes it, and many people believe there’s not much to be done for kids with autism — it’s just something their families will have to learn to live with. It’s nice in that there’s so much support and understanding of our kids. When I was growing up I didn’t know anyone with autism, and there was certainly a social stigma attached. Now when I mention it, whoever I’m talking to inevitably says something like, “Oh, yes, my (niece/best friend’s kid/son’s friend/etc) has autism. They’ve been doing _____, have you tried that?” Because, you see, parents are rarely content to just leave things be when they’re told their child will never have a normal life and there’s nothing they can do about it. They think that there must be something they can do, even if it will only help a little bit.
So these parents research. And they get involved in communities, both in real life and on the internet, and they talk with other parents about what they’ve figured out. And everyone tells others what helped their child do just a little better, even though it might not work for everyone’s kid. And then the parents look at what helped others, and they try those things themselves. Some of them help, some of them don’t. But every improvement is celebrated, and what’s more, it’s celebrated by a whole community. There are hundreds of people who understand what a big deal it is when your child points at something and says “Look!” and they all rejoice with you when it happens.
I, personally, have gotten so much help and advice from other parents who have been down this road before me. I am constantly amazed by the amount of time they are willing to spend answering questions, especially ones that must seem pretty obvious to them. But when you’re first starting out, nothing is obvious. I, in turn, have tried to share the little knowledge I have with those around me, in the hopes that something I say will help them and their children. Because it’s really all about helping our kids.
So I guess I’d just like to say a big thank-you to those who have helped me along the way so far, and to those who continue to answer all sorts of silly questions for me. And if any of you have question (silly or otherwise), feel free to ask. I might not have an answer, but I’d love to pass on whatever knowledge I can.
- 2 April 2008