Article first published as Light It Up Blue for Those with Autism on Technorati.
April is Autism Awareness Month, a month to think about the causes of Autism, the impact it has on our lives, and the opportunities we can take to help those with Autism apply their unique gifts for us all. Municipalities and private homes are using blue lights to draw awareness to Autism.
The media seems to have used this time to focus on research into the causes of Autism, the recent CDC announcement of 1 in 88 kids in the US having Autism, and the various results of surveys that have been used to identify areas in need of research. But instead of focusing on the progress, they seem to be more concerned with the "scare tactics" to boost interest. In particular, they are focusing on the results of a survey that identified a trend between older fathers and obese mothers as being at increased risk of having a child with Autism.
The survey is very useful, as it identifies some common issues and tries to narrow the field of research. It's been used in the past for every medical condition from AIDS to cancer. And in the past the media has been right with them, reporting "causes" of cancer to be eggs, cranberries, cell phones, etc. Instead of taking the survey data at face value, the media seems to have taken it upon themselves to draw the conclusion of a link.
With Autism, it started with vaccines. One "doctor" (who has since been exposed as a fraud) had research data linking the MMR vaccine to Autism. It's since been disproved, but the media jumped on it with a thirst for ratings, readership, and advertising funds. Now, for the first time in decades, several large populations are at risk for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. These are potentially deadly "childhood" diseases that had all but been stamped out in this country, and they are coming back with a vengeance. Why? Because of the scare of Autism.
Autism isn't scary. It can be frustrating when your child doesn't want to look you in the eye, or doesn't seem to want to talk at all. Or embarrassing when your child is screaming bloody murder in the supermarket because of the lights, starts head-butting everything out of frustration or takes all their clothes off in the back yard (or front yard, for that matter), because they don't like the feel of the fabric on their skin. It can cause panic when your child runs off and you can't find them, knowing they will not find their way home on their own (or think to).
But Autism can be amazing. The amazing abilities of these kids provide such a feeling of awe as they accomplish things their neurotypical peers wouldn't even dream of doing, such as tearing down a vacuum cleaner and putting it back together again (and it works!). These special children have the ability to create such a feeling of compassion in so many people, it's inspiring, because it's not pity, but rather a feeling of love for children who are so close to their feelings and very honest about their thoughts.
For Autism Awareness month, we are lighting our front yard light in blue. It's for all the kids who are in need of a voice, those who can't defend themselves against thoughtless comments, bullies, judgmental neighbors or family members. It's for my two boys who astound me every day with their progress toward mainstream education, and the smiles they bring to me and each other when we play. It's for the sleepless nights when dealing with night terrors that turn into full fledged meltdowns.