Doing the "Blue"
It's that time of year again for Autism Awareness Month. Autism will be in the news, prominent buildings across America will be, "Lighting it up blue," and I'm sure there will be plenty of news stories about autism.
How am I going to be "Lighting it up blue?" As Community Education Specialist for TouchPoint Autism Services, I will be traveling the state of Missouri to educate families, professionals, doctors, and educators to not only be aware of Autism, but to UNDERSTAND it.
I use a map to indicate the counties where I am taking the message of understanding. Each month is indicated by a different color. For the month of April I have chosen blue: "Lighting it up blue." I will be in 15 different counties, making 19 presentations.
Last year I posted how raising awareness became my passion. The mission has not changed within a year and if anything my passion has grown more intense than ever.
April is the month to bridge the gap between awareness to understanding the gifts and challenges those on the spectrum face.
Last year when I wrote that blog entry I was still new to this and new to speaking. In the year since, I have no doubt that the need for awareness and understanding is far greater than we can imagine. What I mean by that is the current rates of autism are near 1 in 100! We can throw stats around all day long and the result is that a number minimizes the human impact. When I quote numbers I often forget that each 1 in 100 is a person that has autism. If I forget about it what does the rest of society do?
What am I getting at? Stats are sterile. Statistics might raise awareness, but my mission is to raise understanding. With my writing and presentations I try my best to make the autism spectrum into a vivid picture that one can see and feel.
Don't misunderstand me; the numbers of the incidence rates of autism are scary. Here in Missouri the rates are actually a total of 1 in 83 and for boys it is 1 in 52! But again, those numbers do not show the impact. For each case of autism many more people are brought into the realm of the spectrum. There are the parents, the siblings, the grandparents, the doctors, and the teachers that will be introduced to the autism spectrum. Because of this awareness itself is not enough. Society as a whole, whether it wants to or not, will eventually have to know more about the autism spectrum than it does now because our numbers are increasing.
If you are reading this you probably already have a better than average understanding of the autism spectrum. Think of your friends though: what is their level of knowledge? Extended family? All too often the autism spectrum is kept as a secret in a way. In my presentations I often hear parents say that the child's uncles and aunts have no idea what autism is and simply say, "Why are you spoiling your child?" This is where autism understanding is needed.
This is the month to share your story with extended family and friends. This is the month that autism should not be lost in the numbers but made real. Each person with autism is unique and I have preached many times that, "If you've met one person with autism, you've only met one person with autism" and this is the month to celebrate that!
I feel the world, for the most part, is listening. Of course there are some people that will never listen (that story tomorrow) but if we don't speak up how will the world ever know who we are? If we don't speak up how can we expect to be understood? Of all the months to speak this is the month. We are a long ways from total understanding, but with this month we can continue the journey that is autism awareness and autism understanding.