Did you hear the news yesterday? The autism rates were altered a little bit with the government now saying 1 in 50 school children are on the autism spectrum.
Read that again. 1 in 50.
I had a conversation with a coworker at a school just a week or so ago about how I felt the 1 in 88 number was way off per seeing just how many kids in the schools state that they have a form of autism. Even still, at least for the past six schools I've presented in here in Missouri, 1 in 50 isn't the number I think it should be.
So what do these numbers mean? What does it mean that we now have 1 in 50 kids on the autism spectrum? For one it means we are nearing a point in time where autism awareness isn't something that a school can pick and choose whether or not they want something like a presentation but now it is going to be a necessity. Okay, I know some of you will have always thought it should be a necessity, and I agree, but there are still some mindsets out there that, "it's not that big of a deal."
It is a big deal, though, and not just because of the present. I've heard so many professionals in the field talk about the cliff. What the cliff is, it states that we always hear about kids with autism but what happens when they grow up? For those with Asperger's, according to this article from two years ago from Forbes, the unemployment rate is 80%!
There are many reasons as to why the rate is 80% but I am sure one of them is the fact that, if one was constantly mentally, and perhaps physically, beat up in school, and if everything they tried as a person failed, then what motivation is there to keep trying? This is where educating the students is so important. If we can raise the awareness and understanding of students today then the whole school process may be smoother for those on the spectrum, a fail-set thought process may not set in, and aspirations may remain.
I've said this each time there are new autism numbers, but it is important not to forget; lost in each releasing of numbers isn't the 50, but the 1. For yesterday when the numbers came out, and today, and perhaps the following weeks to come, autism has been reduced to a number. There isn't another way to release numbers, but in doing so the human impact is lost. I don't think the average person can even conceive of just how many people 1 in 50 are.
If we want to change the future we must reach the present. There is no other way around it. If we want a world where there is acceptance of those on the autism spectrum, and true inclusion, we must reach the students. I am so thankful, grateful, and honored to have spoken to the thousands of students I have spoken to because this is the only way, I feel, to lower that unemployment rate in the future.
Of course, this is more serious than an unemployment rate. Much more. I didn't blog yesterday as I had an early morning presentation to a group of students. some of which were on the autism spectrum, and after my presentation one student came up and he told me, "I just wanted to say that I didn't believe in hope until I heard you so, thank you." That's what this is about. When a person lives in a cold, non-understanding world how is there room for hope? How can one speak up for one's self if the only thing there is going to be is admonishment? When one truly needs help but is afraid to speak up, well, the downward spiral of misunderstanding grows and grows and hopelessness sets in. It doesn't need to be this way and I hope, to answer my question, I hope this is exactly what these numbers mean.