This is it... Today is the final day of Autism Awareness Month and I have to ask, what does this mean? I am thankful of the awareness that is driven up during this month, but does this mean that once tomorrow hits autism is simply something that affects "other people" in the eyes of the general public? For the unaware, is April "Autism season" sort of how baseball and football have a season?
For those on, or those who have family on the spectrum, there is no season as every day has the chance of being a struggle. Be it April 3rd or October 19th every day is autism aware day for those living with it.
Where are we going though? I am starting to wear down physically as it has been a wonderful grueling month (I'm not complaining one bit) but I'm also wearing down mentally trying to figure out how I can use words in a better way to help the awareness and understanding cause. Touring the country I've learned the need is so great and we've seen that video which stresses the immediate need, but what's going to happen tomorrow? Will autism slowly fade out of the news and will our human stories be once again relegated to numbers, such as 1 in 88?
One of my big messages is, "If you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism" and perhaps some can be critical of my writing style, but I'm never going to say, "Do X because it works" because what works for me may not work for all. This, right here, is the most important thing, I feel, teachers need to know. When autism is not simply a number and stories run on the news about various people on the spectrum this helps make the puzzle a bit clearer. I think in April this happens more frequently than the other months. Yes, in the other months, from what I've seen, autism, often times, is simply spoken on the numbers terms and when a whole spectrum condition is reduced to a number, well, how can one possibly learn the human story behind each "1" person with autism?
My hope, and passion, is that after today the push towards full understanding and awareness isn't lost. Numbers work great when mentioning the alarming increase, but the story is more than that; we are more than that! We on the spectrum have so much to offer and have so much potential but this potential can easily be squandered without proper awareness and understanding. My fear though is that autism once again slides back into the realm of numbers and that the human element, in all of its potential be it the achievements and challenges that come along with autism, are lost.
So, with all this being so, I don't see today as an end by any means. If anything today is the day that the real challenge begins, at least for me, because the voice needs to be louder, clearer, and sharper. Tomorrow the blue lights will be switched out, Autism Awareness Month signs will come down, and the general public won't be exposed to autism the way they had been for a month. For those like myself, life with autism will go on just the same. I'm glad that we do have a month, and maybe I'm just a tad bit too ambitious, but this is when the real work to raise awareness and understanding begins because I am going to continue to put everything I've got into making sure that autism isn't simply a number but rather a true spectrum with varying gifts and challenges.