I walked through the long spacious corridor feeling like each one of my senses was being violated. The music was pumping around me so loud like I was in a nightclub. I started to feel that tense welling up feeling like I was about to cry just after I discovered how little has changed in 10 years. I remember going to this mall when Dylan was a baby when he had the entire world ahead of him. He used to look at me, smile, practically beg for my attention. Then I remembered the last time I took Dylan here about 10 years ago was when he was just starting to unravel into the abyss of autism. That day he ran through the mall laughing, not responding to his name and he kept running away for me. I remember being perplexed by the marked change in his behavior. I had no idea what was happening. Now I am in this same mall killing time while I wait to go pick him up my twelve year old at his special needs school that is 45 minutes from my home in New York City. We had to abruptly transfer to this school mid-year.
As I walked out the double doors and the smell of perfume and makeup started to dissipate into a faint memory the tears came flooding down my face just as the rain was also pouring down on me with such force.
Finally I made my way across the expansive parking lot to my car and got out of the of the rain. I let out a huge exhale as my body abruptly hit the leather seat, which seem to release enough of the tension with my emotions that I wouldn't keep crying. I sat there and waited a few minutes in my car and just watched the rain pound down on the windshield. I kept waiting till I had the will to get back to the reality of my life. It's a very different reality than the one I thought I would have.
So forgive me if I don't want to celebrate and light it up blue all month in April. I don't buy those pink things in October either. Those purchases don't make me feel like I am doing anything about the problem. When I tirelessly sit at my desk typing my little fingers to the bone trying to edit my book on how to prevent autism that will be out this Summer, it's then that I feel I am trying to do something about the problem.
If you want to do something about autism then how about calling your state senators and asking them to provide more services for those families that are affected. I know purchasing the pens at CVS is a lot easier than the mental energy that it takes to sit down, find the number, think about what you want to say and call or write someone urging them to do something about autism.
Adding a new character to Sesame Street who has autism to make people more comfortable with this growing problem of brain damaged children is not the answer either. Recognizing that we have an epidemic would be a great start. Passing laws to make insurance companies cover alternative therapies that are helping children and subsidizing families with a stipend for good nutrition to replete the damaged bodies ravaged by toxins and metabolic disorder would be more helpful than buying blue products. Then looking at all the environmental factors that have come into play since this meteoric rise in the amount of children being diagnosed with autism would be our next step.
I am just so fed up with blue, pink or any colored ribbon or product. It's kind of like hitting like on Facebook. It may make you feel better in the moment but it really doesn't do anything of substance.
If you want to lend a hand this April but find that you're not the advocacy type then how about making some specific offers to a family that you know is affected with a child that has autism. Here are just a few of my suggestions:
- Offer to babysit for 2-3 hours so they can get a much needed mental break or maybe even an evening out with their spouse.
- Invite them to do a play date with your child even if the ages don't match up just so they can have a social experience that probably doesn't come their way that often.
- If you think that there might be financial stress then offer to buy them a supplement that they might have been thinking of trying for their child.
- Invite their family over for a barbecue lunch. And then ask them what you can do to make the experience easiest for their child including getting or cooking allergy friendly food.
- Pick a moment that you feel is right when you come into contact with either parent and tell them "I'm here for you if you ever need help or even if you just need to talk."
The one thing I don't want you to do is please don't celebrate autism this April.
And above all please don't buy any blue for me!
Dara Berger is a writer who is just putting the finishing touches on her first book about preventing autism due out later this Summer. She is also a documentary filmmaker that thrives on exploring meaningful issues that touch people’s lives. Dara just received her health coach certificate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and plans to start a practice where she can assist people in healing themselves from chronic health issues as well as preventing them