Tuesday, April 2, 2013

World Autism Awareness Day

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Today is World Autism Awareness Day. People all over the world will 'light it up blue' in order to raise awareness for autism.This is a good thing, unless you are talking to someone who thinks it's a bad thing.

Why is it every thing becomes a subject for controversy these days. I support awareness. My son is an adult now. When he was diagnosed, most people  had never heard of autism. We did a lot of educating one on one over the years. We had too, because my son was treated like some kind of monster when we went out in public.

Now that there are awareness campaigns, and now that autism seems to touch more families, we no longer fear going out in public. In less than a generation perceptions changed.

There is a lot of controversy in the autism communities. The voices on all sides can be loud and strident. Don't ever dare to disagree with a mom that believes autism is caused by vaccines on a message board or facebook. Don't dare to say that you think the 1 in 50 study is a flawed study and that number meaningless. Why is it that everything these days becomes so heated and adversarial?

I don't believe vaccines caused my sons autism. In fact, I know they didn't, because this old hippie mom didn't have her child vaccinated. I don't believe toxic food, aspartame, or GMO's caused my sons autism. Because this old hippie mom never allowed her child to have any of those things. Does that mean I don't believe there are children who have had reactions to vaccines? No. But am I the enemy if I say that is a different issue than autism?

I don't believe the 1 in 50 numbers. I think self reported studies are rarely indicative. There is a 6 year old in our apartment complex who I have been told is non-verbal. The thing is, I know he is verbal. I have seen him, heard him, and had conversations with him. His mother would report that he is non verbal. She called me a liar when I said I had heard him talk.This is one of the reasons I don't trust these types of  'studies'.

But, does it really matter that I disagree with other parents of autistic children? Does that make me the enemy? I hope not. Does the fact that I think Awareness campaigns have made our lives easier make me a 'sell-out'? I don't think so.

I try to hold my tongue in these situations. I have listened to parents fight over these things. I have cringed every time I have heard parents say their child is broken-a term I despise above all else!My child is not broken. My child is exactly the way he was born to be.

Autism is not a new phenomena. It was being studied in the 1930's and 1940's in Australia, the UK, and The US. It was called other things before the term autism was coined in 1943. Genealogy can find evidence of autism going back generations in families. Anecdotal evidence can describe autistic behaviors for hundreds and hundreds of years.

So, personally, I support Awareness campaigns. The more people who are aware that our children are amazing people deserving acceptance the better.

It is Autism Awareness month, but like the button says, at our house we have autism awareness every day. If having an awareness campaign makes one less person look at my son funny when we go out in public, then I say light it up!!