Honoring Autism Awareness
April was a very busy celebratory month. It is most well known for being National Autism Awareness Month. This is a subject very close to my heart. As the parent of an autistic child, my journey through parenthood has been atypical, to say the least. There was definitely a greater learning curve in figuring out how to raise this special little girl.
The autistic spectrum is so broad and each case is highly individualized when it comes to the list of symptoms they may have. Add to that that they are more likely to suffer from co-occurring disorders, such as asthma, gastro-intestinal problems and seizures. It's scary. My daughter was non-verbal when most toddlers already had a basic vocabulary. She also had, and still has, asthma. She had to receive Early Intervention services, which involved intense ABA therapy, 5 days a week, all day, split between four therapists. Amazingly, within months she began speaking, making more eye contact, and learned how to play. She later went to a preschool program for autistic children at Developmental Disabilities Institute, Inc. and she thrived. Turned out she's very high functioning now, highly intelligent and very social. And now she doesn't shut up (lol). She still has some focus issues, social/behavioral disconnects but she's highly intelligent. We were fortunate. She often passes as typically oriented to most people.
The thing about autistic kids is that there's nothing wrong with their brain, they're just wired differently. They have a heightened sensitivity to all stimuli. They don't think or process the world around them like typical people. They're just different. Nothing wrong with that, so long as non-ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) people can learn how to teach them the way they learn and realize they're not "being bad", they are exhibiting a behavior. They don't act so much as react. Acceptance, awareness, education and respect are so important in dealing with this unique segment of our population. Let me share some knowledge on you based on my personal experiences in the autistic community and recent research. (source cited below)
As of April 2018, 1 in 59 children in the United States had a diagnosis of autism. A current study, published in November 2018, estimates that roughly 1 in 4 children in the US currently have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. That's approximately 1.5 million children in the US. Now despite some wild claims still circulating (vaccines, gluten, aliens), despite being debunked repeatedly, there is no direct cause of autism. It is a lifelong disorder likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, according to most researchers. It is reported in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups and is 4 times more common in boys than in girls. And these kids aren't necessarily lacking mentally. Approximately 44% of children with ASD have average to above average intellectual ability.
A lot to think abut isn't it? Added little factoid, it costs approximately $17,000 more per year to raise an autistic child versus a child without ASD. Resources are so important and not equally available in every state or to every family. This is why this month is important.
Donate/Support reputable autism organizations (avoid Autism Speaks FYI... Don't even get me started!). Support ASD research and legislation that provides much needed services, research and well-deserved compensation to the service providers we depend on to help our children navigate this world that appears so differently to them. And remember, Caregivers need help, too. Offer respite and help with their day-to-day. It would be greatly appreciated.
(By the Way, my daughter is a friggin’ rockstar. She's incredibly loving, intelligent, beautiful, joyful and an all around tough-as-nails chick. She's my Wonder Woman! Can't think of a better girl to pass my tiara to!)
God bless and Happy Belated National Autism Awareness Month, fam!