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Thursday, April 5, 2012

From Little Bit Quirky


Was It World Autism Awareness Day?

I can't believe I let World Autism Awareness Day pass by me like that! The truth is, autism is something that I'm pretty aware about. The other truth is that I hope my blog (and many others out there) try to increase autism awareness year-round. The latest statistics the CDC issued is that 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism. As I look around the playgrounds and schoolyards that statistic does not surprise me at all. In fact, it's still probably on the low side. I can't help but feel that most people are in close contact with somebody who is on the autism spectrum whether they're aware of it or not.

My beef lately isn't so much about the general public's awareness or lack of awareness regarding autism. It's with the autism "community" itself. I put quotes around the word community because that is exactly what this community lacks--a sense of community.

First, you have the parents of children with autism fighting amongst themselves on what the cause of autism is and how best to approach treatments. If one group doesn't agree with another group, instead of respectfully agreeing to disagree, everyone puts up battle zones and argues their point. This often occurs in a disrespectful manner.

Then, you have infighting among the parents regarding what the goal is. One group wants a cure for autism, the other group wants society to accept their children with autism.

There's a similar battle between the parents of children with autism who are looking for a cure and people with autism who are offended by the notion that they need to be fixed.

Personally, I think the mission of increasing autism awareness would work a lot better if the autism community worked as a community.

The first step would be to acknowledge that the goals of a subgroup does not (and should not) reflect the goals for the whole group. People with high-functioning autism and/or Aspergers (and their parents) have very different goals than parents of very low-functioning children have. I think the community needs to have sensitivity to the different needs of the different members of its community.

Further, I think the community needs to be respectful of each other when they do not agree. Instead of belittling the other's opinions, try to understand what is fueling them.

Maybe with some patience and understanding, the autism community can come together to fully educate the general public on the complex range of issues--good and bad--that accompany autism.

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