By Cathy Jameson
As we draw a close to another autism awareness month, I’ll admit I am not sad that this month is over. Why? While looking up the history of the autism awareness campaign and when it started, I discovered that the campaign began in the 1970s. When I did my first search, I thought I had discovered a typo. Surely they meant the 90s. Nope. Not a typo. Someone was trying to get people to notice autism two decades earlier.
Lots of us are doing a lot more than notice autism now. We’ve been sounding alarms about the autism rates and what the disorder has done to our children for what we feel is an eternity. Obviously awareness hasn’t been enough. Look at that old rate again. The rate from 40 years ago. When it was 1 in 25,000. Look at all those zeros in that number! Twenty five THOUSAND. That’s the population of a small town. It was likely that one person out of an entire community was diagnosed with autism 40 years ago. That’s not so today; we’re able to pick out a handful of affected kids on one play ground!
Since the earlier campaigns, I think it’s safe to point out that having awareness didn’t slow, curb or end the autism epidemic. Proof is in the new numbers. The autism rates skyrocket as this month’s awareness campaign kicked off. Just days before April began, the CDC revealed a new rate. An even higher rate. Another jaw-dropping-rate-but-let’s-do-nothing-about-it rate. Granted, we’re being told a different formula and strategy were used to calculate this current number, but the number still screams, “THE AUTISM EPIDEMIC IS GROWING, AND IT’S GROWING AT AN ALARMING RATE.” What response did we get in reply?
Ho hum, it’s just autism.
This autism awareness month, which other groups chose to celebrate and embrace, saw an announcement that autism is affecting 1 in 50 school-age children. 1 out of 50. 1 out of 50 who struggle with speech, social skills or personal care. 1 out of 50 who are dependent on another human to be fed, clothed and bathed. 1 out of 50 who require intense intervention and therapy that insurance companies refuse to cover. 1 out of 50 who may never live on their own or feel independence as previous generations have. I find nothing to celebrate, nor embrace in these numbers and what it means for so many children’s futures.
It’s unfortunate that the people who do need to wake up to the alarms we’ve been blaring cannot do. They can’t do that while they have their ears covered to what we’ve been saying for so long now. They need to rip off the blinders that they are wearing instead of turning away from us while acting oblivious to what is happening in plain sight. They need to feel the grip that autism has on us—on our emotions, on us as caretaker and on our pocketbooks as it drains us day in and day out.
Sadly, no one who does need to see what we have witnessed is willing to take awareness a step further. But, no one wants to admit that this is tragic news. No one cares that a generation of children will grow up with a host of struggles that will prevent them from truly being dependent adults. Being aware just doesn’t work unless the goal was to deflect how traumatic autism is.
April will be over in just a few days. Like last year, and for so many years before that, awareness of autism will simmer down and eventually be whisked under the rug. We’ll go back to our fight, and the rest of the world will show little interest in a plight that is quickly taking over so many children’s childhoods. Only when the media deems a ridiculous study worthwhile will autism be broadcasted across the land again. We’ll hear about this “mysterious” disorder again, but it won’t be useful news. You’ll recognize that right away. The story will make the headlines, but it will be anything but practical. You know these types of stories well. They are the ones full of bunk and funded by wasted research dollars. It’ll claim that a kid became autistic because his mom was well endowed or that his dad was older than the hills and that they all lived super close to a highway. You’ll want to yell at the TV when you hear the reports because they are so absurd, and because instead of looking at environmental factors that contributed to our children’s autism, gobs of money went to outlandish research that created useless studies that continuously blame the parents.
Here’s the good news. If you are the type to keep a countdown, depending upon when you read this, we have about 48 hours left in this month. T-minus two days to go back to focusing on autism ACTION 24/7, to give our children everything they need to work through the difficulties they encounter, and to concentrate on the efforts of the autism community that promises to never ever give up. So, say bye-bye to April. Bye-bye to awareness. Bye-bye to blue lights and to 30 days of frustration. I, like many others, have no time for any of that and can’t wait to for this awareness diversion to be done. Too much else needs our attention.
See ya never, autism awareness. Don’t let the door kick you in the rear on your way out.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.