The Naked Truth: Autism Awareness

truth Today, in case like me you didn’t know this before, in addition to being April 2nd, it is also Autism Awareness Day.  If you can, please wear BLUE in support of all the children and adults struggling to find acceptance and a solution.  Thor, CP, Chick and I are also walking for Autism Speaks on May 22nd in Cincinnati and we could use your donations.  If you want to donate please CLICK HERE to visit my donation page or look in my sidebar for the link.  All money is collected directly through the Autism Speaks Foundation and is completely safe.

Most of you know that Thor is ‘on the spectrum’.  I actually hate that term (along with a few others).  He was diagnosed with mild Aspergers in November.  I talked about the ‘before’ time here.  In the past few days I’ve come across several blogs (a few known to me and a few unknown) and they’ve talked about Aspergers.  The most important thing I’ve learned from this is that I am not alone.  With my struggles, with not knowing what to do or how to explain why Thor might do something.  Occasionally, he will cry at the drop of a hat, over something silly to me but something that’s not silly to him.  In a younger child you would expect tears for certain things, but not in an eight year old.

The hardest part is starting over again in a place that doesn’t know about Thor.  Do we tell neighbors about this extra thing that makes up a part of who he is?  How and when?  We’ve told the mother of his best friend on our new street.  Thor plays over there a lot.  A Lot.  It’s an awkward conversation to have because how do you tell someone such a thing about your child?

Am I embarrassed about who Thor is?  Absolutely not.  Am I afraid people will judge him unfairly when they hear about is Aspergers?  Yes, I am.  He is a brilliant, funny, sweet, kind, loving little boy.  He can also get very angry – out of proportion for circumstances; cries easily in certain situations and lives in a very black-and-white world.  In his mind, in the words of Yoda – “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  There is no gray.  He is stubborn (though I’m sure CP would say that comes from me and has nothing to do with the Aspergers.)  When he says he didn’t do something, even when you’ve witnessed or heard him say it, he may tell you with absolute confidence that you are lying.  Not him.  He has unfortunately said this to his teacher this week.

The best thing that we’ve learned is that ASD’s (Autism Spectrum Disorders) are becoming common.  Don’t misunderstand that I think that is a good thing – I don’t.  What is good is that more educational resources and more people are learning about what ASD’s are and what they mean.  What is good is that more educational resources and more people are learning about what ASD’s are and what they mean. You’ll learn a bit about autism when you take medical coding classes.  Can my child grow up and be a doctor/lawyer/train engineer?  Yes, he can be anything he wants.  His ASD doesn’t limit him that way.  Not everyone gets to be as lucky as we are.  I know that.  And I am thankful everyday that we got so lucky to be on the very mild side of this.

In case you don’t know how common this is, here are some facts from Autism Speaks about just how common this issue is today.

Today, it is estimated that one in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. An estimated 1.5 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide are affected by autism. Government statistics suggest the prevalence rate of autism is increasing 10-17 percent annually. There is not established explanation for this increase, although improved diagnosis and environmental influences are two reasons often considered. Studies suggest boys are more likely than girls to develop autism and receive the diagnosis three to four times more frequently. Current estimates are that in the United States alone, one out of 70 boys is diagnosed with autism. 

Just think about the numbers I highlighted.  That is so significant as to be mind boggling to me.  This is the reason I will fight for Thor and kids like him to make sure they receive the chances they deserve.  They deserve to grow up and be recognized, not for their ASD but for who they are.  They are kids who will become adults who have an ASD.  Don’t limit them by slapping a label on them and dismissing them. With the prevalence of ASD’s today, we can’t afford to.

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