Monday, April 2, 2012
April is Autism Awareness month. The world is slowly becoming more aware, but there is a long way to go. I was taking the child I nanny with disabilities to school and someone's mom saw my Autism Awareness bracelet. And they asked "What is Autism?" My jaw dropped. Your son is in the disability world and you're asking me WHAT is Autism?
The dictionary definition of Autism is: a pervasive developmental disorder of children, characterized by impaired communication, excessive rigidity, and emotional detachment.
Autism effects approximately 1 in 77 children. In the Autism world there is a common saying "when you meet a child with Autism... you have met ONE child with Autism" You will NEVER meet 2 Autistic children alike, they are all different. This is a spectrum disorder, meaning there are many different degrees and even different difficulties for each child. This is what makes it so hard and so important to diagnosis.
The closest family member I have with Autism is my cousin, he's my age. He's the sweetest man ever, he used to copy everything you said. Social skills are not there, but he always smiled and said "I love you Julia" his parents never accepted it, and he got the minimal services. He went to the work program at USU and had fun. Then him and his parents got called to serve a mission in Nauvoo, IL. As the prepped for the mission and to go to the Temple he started to make more eye contact, repeat less, and make small comments of his own. He could read a little better, all over the board he continued to progress. Now they are home and he's talking more then ever, reading elementary school books on his own, and they are looking into him working at the local grocery store.
I have worked with dozens of children with Autism. Many of them I have grown to love, when you put your heart and soul into watching them during the day, make them happy, and to see them smile how can you not? One of my best friends has Autism, we do things together that typical 22 year old girls do and have a blast doing it.
I have seen the sadness in parents face as their child runs off to play on their own, drag the child doctor to doctor then therapist to therapist to "fix their child". Then you see it. You see the moment when the parent "gets it" and they just smile at their child and say "I love you". They accept that their child will be brilliant, but never able to express it. They accept all the "weird" habits they may have, and learn to work with them and to explain them. And for some, that they may never hear the words "I love you mom and dad." The parents finally work WITH child to make them all they can be, versus forcing to make the child do something that they may never be able to do.
I firmly believe that someone with Autism (or any disability) that could express themselves and progress in a classroom, cancer would be cured.
Take the time to understand. If you have a child that is going through the processes of diagnosis, this is not a death sentence. There is Hope.