Welcome to April 1st which means we are once again in autism awareness month.When I started with TouchPoint three years ago this month seemed special. In 2011 I did an autism awareness tour of Missouri and last year I did my nationwide tour. As April has rolled around again I've been thinking on what this month means.
So, what do I mean by wondering what this month means? Well, first off, is it a good thing? I've read a couple stories in the past few weeks on how this attention towards the autism spectrum makes some feel uncomfortable. On the other hand this month there will be rallies, news stories, and more Facebook mentions of the autism spectrum than any other month. So through social media and the television media there will be more mentions of autism and this is good, right?
When I think about autism awareness I used to think about it for those already initiated with the autism spectrum. Today, however, I now think about it in terms of those that don't know a thing about it. This is the segment of society we need to reach the most. These are the people who won't know any better and will tell parents, "you're spoiling you're kid!" or, "you need to tell your kid to stop that!" with regards to any given behavior. That being so, what does this month do?
The thing I worry about is this; if we put all our eggs in one basket and the autism message is drilled over and over within a short time span, will the uninitiated take notice? Again, please don't get me wrong, it is great having this month, but if we don't focus on the other 11 months will autism sort of be like a season? A season being how baseball isn't really in the public eye in December.
For those on, or have family members on the autism spectrum there is no off season and that is sort of my point here. Baseball, after the World Series, sort of goes away until spring training and even then it isn't that relevant. So, with all this attention to autism for these 30 days does autism fall into the trap of being "in season?"
I most certainly hope that we don't fall into the trap of being in season. I will once again state that I think this month is a good idea so please don't get me wrong on that front, but I also think we need to look at the other 11 months and to have a steady stream of awareness rather than one bulk message. That's why I am so thankful for my position as Autism Ambassador because my message doesn't end come May 1st.
With rates of autism on the rise autism awareness can't be confined to 30 days of the year. The message has to always be out there be it April or December. People, be it officers, teachers, store managers, and everyone else needs to know about the signs, the challenges, the hope, and anything and everything else that will make the interactions between autism and the rest of the world all the better. This is a challenge because, "if you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism" but it's a challenge we must take on. This is a challenge we must win.