I was at the TouchPoint booth for the 2011 Parents as Teachers national conference as I had been the past two years. In fact, the 2009 installment was my first task as an official employee of TouchPoint. Anyway, two years ago it seemed like the #1 question was, "autism, what's that?" Or, "Asperger Syndrome? What exactly is that?" This year the questions of "what" changed to "why". Also, instead of asking the question I heard many people walk by the table and say, "Asperger Syndrome, I have a student..."
I'm amazed at how far we've come in just the past two years if I use this conference as a barometer. I was happy two years ago when just a slight percentage of the population knew what it meant compared to when I was first diagnosed; truly I can't tell you how annoying it was to tell people I have Asperger Syndrome and then they say, "Wait, did you just say you ate a hamburger?"
Each year the amount of awareness is going up and just when I think it can't get any higher it seems to do. However, as I've said many times, it isn't so much just to be aware of it but we need to bridge the gap in the understanding of it. Awareness is a multi-dimensional goal as before someone can understand it they must first be aware of it, but I feel we have a long way to go on the understanding goal.
Of course, raising the understanding is my primary mission and I know from my conversations at the conference, and elsewhere, that people want to understand. There's a lot of people out there though and also a lot of misinformation that can give people the wrong ideas.
So, the mission continues, but it just creates such a joy to know that the awareness is on the rise. We are on our way and who knows where we'll be in another year!