Saturday, April 2, 2011

International Autism Awareness Day

It's April 2nd, and it's International Autism Awareness Day.  I hear about talk people wearing blue, or Lighting It Up blue or black or whatever for this day (aka: "slacktivism").  Most of them donate money to this organization or that organization, never really knowing what their money is used for.  I don't support this day for them, the "slacktivists" or the large organizations.  In fact, I don't support THEM at all.  But what I do support is my son. 

This is Kevin.  He's 6 years old.  And he has autism.
I know there's a huge debate going on about what causes autism.  Yes, please, to the eggheads and researchers and scientists and etc, find the cause to help future children.  But finding the cause is a less important to me because my child already has it.  He always has.  From the day I brought him home, he wasn't a "normal" baby.  He didn't like to lay down, preferring his car seat carrier.  He would scream (and I mean scream) if I laid him flat.  Thankfully, that's something he grew out of.  He would scream if I played the "wrong" music.  You don't know how many hours it took of trial and error and screaming newborn to find the right music.  Kevin was born in Minnesota in December, but hated clothes or coverings of any kind.  He still does, when he's at home anyway, but he has accepted that going outside means getting dressed. He didn't potty train until he was 5 years old.  He has the same thing for breakfast every day, not because he wants it or always eats it, but because he can't change it. And these are just a few examples of his "abnormal" behaviors.

I know there are autistic children out there that are "worse" than he is.  I am "lucky" because Kevin's not one of the non-verbal cases, or because he doesn't wander off, or some of the other more challenging behaviors that autistic children can have.  But that doesn't make it easy.  He still has meltdowns about things that seem irrational to "normal" people, like changing his breakfast or not taking the same route to go to Target.  And when those meltdowns happen in public (which is almost always where they do happen, over-stimulation and all), we are stared at by "normal" people.  Occasionally, I see sympathy in their eyes.  But more often than not, it's the "Oh my God, what is wrong with your kid?" look.  Or the "You are the worst parent I've ever seen" look.  It's for those people that I support Awareness.  And it's for my son that I'm Active. 

I may not be standing on a soapbox and screaming about the evils of mercury or gluten or etc, but that doesn't mean I don't agree.  And who am I to tell someone else how to raise or care for their child?  I would be quite angry if (and I am when) someone tries to tell me what's best for my child.

Kevin is autistic.  It's too late for prevention for him.  But there is treatment, support networks, special teaching and tools to help him learn and grow.  Imagine how big that support network could be if "normal" people really saw how close to their homes autism really reaches...

Support Autism (research, families, children, teachers, programs, etc)
Spread Awareness (to your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, society)

Tina Jo

PS.  Shameless plug, yet still in line with the topic, I have created a line of items (designed and made by me) specifically for Autism Awareness.  They are being sold to raise money for Kevin's ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) classroom so they can get an iPad.  You can find them at AlwaysTinaJo on Etsy