Last March (2011) as World Autism Awareness Day approached, I wrote a post – Autism = The New Normal? Here’s what I wrote at the end of the post:
“As April approaches, I say bring on the awareness and bring on a ton of added acceptance for individuals living with Autism Spectrum Disorders, too. Please. But, let us not forget for a moment that we (as a society) need to focus on prevention in a big way. While we don’t fully understand what is 'causing' Autism Spectrum Disorders, we do know there are likely environmental and genetic components – probably working in tandem to create this group of symptoms we presently label ASD. These kids are often very physically ill in a variety of ways, have impaired communication skills, struggle with gross and fine motor skills, experience significant social challenges, and must learn to live with developmental delays, repetitive behaviors/focuses and often cognitive challenges. Autism is exhausting. Autism is expensive. Autism takes a heavy toll on families. And yet, Autism is continually increasing…
This spring, my prayers include thanks to God for the many blessings present in my life, but I’m also praying for future, unbiased studies which will address Autism causation and prevention. We need answers and guidance.
Autism may very well be the new 'normal' if we don’t turn things around soon.
Do you feel the same nagging sense of urgency?”
Now, as I reread my words on the heels of the CDC’s announcement last week that 1 in 88 American children (and 1 in 54 boys) lives with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (up from their last estimate of 1 in 110), I feel a sense of urgency more than ever before.
When exactly will our government stand up and declare this an emergency worthy of everyone’s steadfast attention, dedication and some serious research dollars? When?
Well, they sure haven’t yet. But, it hasn’t stopped parents and other determined professionals from willing and demanding it to happen. In fact, today at 11am EST, there will be a coalition press conference in New York City with individuals from various National and International organizations requesting immediate change. I will be watching, will you?
Our children’s generation is quite literally in jeopardy. Kids in general are more sick and immune-compromised than ever. We are not just seeing 1 in 88 children with ASD…think about the skyrocketing numbers of children with asthma, life-threatening allergies, diabetes, cancer, auto-immune disorders and more. This is simply unacceptable.
With that stated, I won’t be “celebrating autism” this April. However, I WILL be spreading awareness every opportunity I am given. More than ever I want society to know and understand how challenging every day can be for a child living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. These kids work harder than most people could imagine.
Most importantly, I want to share that I WILL CELEBRATE my amazing 9-year-old son Ethan who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome and continues to amaze me with his hard work and determination – every single day.
I WILL CELEBRATE that Ethan was asked to be on a student panel later this month to speak to parents, teachers and administrators about what it is like to live with ASD!
I WILL CELEBRATE that Ethan has been able to play team sports last year and this year thanks to the years of private therapies, interventions and treatments he received in his preschool and early elementary school years.
I WILL CELEBRATE that Ethan joined Cub Scouts this year and is learning about his duty to God and Country in a welcoming and fun atmosphere with his peers.
I WILL CELEBRATE that Ethan has earned the honor of being listed on the A-Honor Roll all year long in his public school with no modifications to academics, only accommodations in his learning environment.
I WILL CELEBRATE that Ethan can communicate verbally with us and is able to tell us when he is in pain, when he is worried/anxious or when he simply wants to say, “I love you.”
I do not take these things for granted. I know that these milestones don’t come easy and have many friends in this community who are fighting daily so that they and their children, can experience such joy.
My prayer on World Autism Awareness Day 2012 is that the world comes to truly recognize the pain and hardships autism can cause affected individuals and their families so that autism will receive the attention it truly deserves.
We cannot wait – we must act now. We need answers regarding causation and prevention. Families need help now.
Autism is no longer “a rare genetic disorder.” Autism is an epidemic. It is long past time that it was treated as such.
My question to you: What (or who) will you be celebrating this April? And, are you – like me, ready to demand ACTION? If you’re interested in letting your government representatives know about the press conference being held later today, check out this Action Alert from the Autism Action Network.
Let’s make April “Autism ACTION Month!”
Leigh Attaway Wilcox is Editor in Charge of the internationally acclaimed AutismSpot.com and her work can be found on many of the pLDNetworks sites. Leigh is the author of ALL BETTER: A Touch-and-Heal Book published by Piggy Toes Press in 2007 (now available for digital download via Moving Picture Books). Leigh lives in North Texas with her husband and young son who loves reading, LEGOs, Mario Bros. and also happens to live with Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder.