Tag Archives | acceptance

Autism Awareness – What does it really mean?

Just to clear up confusion first, Autism Awareness Day is April 2nd around the world and Autism Awareness Month is April for most countries. However, in Canada, Autism Awareness Month is actually October. And being that this is October, I thought I’d write out what Autism Awareness really means, at least to me.

When you hear the phrase, and many others like it (Breast Cancer Awareness, AIDS awareness, etc), you sort of laugh to yourself and think “awareness? Who hasn’t heard of them by now??”

There is obviously a lot more to these things than simply being ‘aware’ of it’s existence. It’s about being aware of the facts, aware of the people who are involved and aware of the struggles those people face.

Autism Awareness is about making people aware that it affects 1 in 110 children around the world, even more scary than that, 1 in 70 boys! I bet most people who are ‘aware’ of Autism had no idea that it was that prevalent.

Autism Awareness is not just answering questions from people but volunteering information they never would have dreamed of. For example, just last night I was talking to someone about how someone with Autism might not be able to distinguish facial features from person to person and will very likely be unable to recognize emotion from facial expressions.

They immediately asked if it’s common for all people with Autism.

The simple answer is no, but instead I proceeded to tell him that the ONLY commonality between all people with Autism is that there is no commonality between all people with Autism.

You can be sure that answer sparked up a conversation and he left informed and I left feeling a little better about how he’ll treat his neighbour’s child that has Autism.

On that note, Autism Awareness isn’t just about scary numbers either, like the ones found here, it’s about helping people to recognize things they might never have thought of before… like that strange child at all the family reunions that absolutely refuses to hug anyone, and just sits at a table by themselves… they’re not loners, they’re not strange, they’re not the odd one in the family.  They’re very much aware of everything happening all around them and they really do want to be part of it all, they just can’t. Stop judging them.

Autism Awareness is much more about understanding than it is awareness. It’s about understanding leading to acceptance.

The truth is, at 1 in 110, you’ve already met at least one person with Autism and likely didn’t even realize it. The question is, how did you perceive them. Did you judge them? Did you judge their parents? Did you dismiss them? Did you take the time to consider their thoughts and feelings?

Perhaps it would be more clear if Autism Awareness was changed to Autism Understanding and Acceptance… because, to me, that’s what this is all about.

Awareness is great for diseases, viruses, contagions… step up, learn the numbers, donate and help out.

But for Autism, and many other childhood disorders, what is truly needed is understanding and acceptance. Research, treatments, therapies… maybe even cures (in some cases and for some people)… these would be nice, but for now… right now, we need understanding and acceptance.

Only then will children and their parents not be judged, only then will there be jobs and opportunities, only then will there be funding available, more schooling options and only then will those with Autism not feel like an outcast looking into a world where they don’t belong.

Whether you are in Canada, reading this in October, or elsewhere reading this in April… speak up, inform and help to raise more than just awareness, help to spread ‘Autism Understanding and Acceptance’.

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Searching For A Reason, For Something to Blame

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on all of the various possible causes of Autism and it got me to thinking… we really have no clue! I am no doctor and certainly not a scientist but let me give you a rundown of a few things that I have read, and a few things I know.

Possible causes have been tracked down to genetics, birth defects, gastrointestinal tract problems, vaccines, viruses, pollution… ok, I can’t list them all or you may be here reading all day. A little more specifics, they tracked down a rather high rate of Autism in a small town down wind of a sunglasses factory where the pollution was heavy. They have discovered that Autism happens more frequently in boys, especially if they have an older sibling with Autism. They’ve discovered that more people with certain viruses get Autism and of course, vaccines.

Here’s what I know, some children have Autism despite no family history of it, no pollution, their country doesn’t get vaccines and they didn’t catch the same viruses. So… what caused it?

The organization that wrote the main article accusing vaccines has since retracted their findings, one organization in Europe actually found that children with vaccines had less cases of Autism than those without!

What this all means is that if your child has Autism, it’s perfectly natural and quite alright to want to find out why. It’s perfectly natural to blame yourself, someone else… to spend all of your time and energy looking for a reason.

However, unless you are a doctor or a scientist and even then, a very very good one… your time and energy can probably be better spent elsewhere, like learning how to help your child through it.

Since Cameron was diagnosed, we’ve had a lot of questions from a lot of people and I think it’s safe to say that the majority of them have been about vaccines and what we think caused the Autism. People asked if we were still going to get our second child vaccinated…  we did. They asked about our family history, if we thought something went wrong somewhere. They still ask us why there’s more kids with Autism today than before, what we think causes it, what we think about vaccines and diets.

Superman has villains, your child does not.

Denial, anger, shock, self doubt… I went through them, every parent does. If they don’t, they’re not human. But sooner or later you’ll have to accept it. If you don’t, you’ll eventually find that you’re focus hasn’t been where it should have been and for that, you’ll have only yourself to blame… and that brings with it a whole new circle of grief cycles.

Your child doesn’t care what caused it, you do. You finding something to blame is for your own self satisfaction because if you have something to blame, you can feel that it’s not yours nor your child’s fault… even though you already know that.

Put down the lab coat and find out what you can do moving forward. Your child will appreciate it much more.

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