By Jennifer Rose
Well, we've said goodbye to another long April, aka Autism Awareness Month, which has done about as much good for autism as the Spice Girls have done for feminism. If it were more like Breast Cancer Awareness month, which actually does care about people with breast cancer and is about more than “awareness,” it wouldn’t be so bad. Autism Speaks has become notorious for trying to cure autism. But, they also want to make autism look like a “gift”. They also tell us to “Light it Up Blue”- what does that accomplish? Can you say “contradiction?”
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind causes making autistic people feel good about themselves…as long as they don’t treat autism as “alternate thinking”, or worse, a “gift.” It’s only a gift if it inspires people to think outside the box and be more creative. Some famous creative minds may have been autistic (Tim Burton, Andy Warhol, Lewis Carroll) though that’s only speculation. And I found it very sweet for Jodi DiPiazza to sing with Katy Perry, and for Alexis Wineman to overcome autism to become Miss Montana that same year. (I’m also pretty envious of both girls, though Mom and Dad say that I’ll be doing so much more work with autism.)
If they were all Jodi DiPiazzas and Alexis Winemans, it would be easy. However, autism is not a “one size fits all” diagnosis. There are many kids who struggle to get a word out, like my sister. However, autism coverage in the media is a lot like “missing pretty girl syndrome.” If you’re cute, pretty, and “marketable” (read: sugary sweet), you get coverage. Unfortunately, this not only leaves out kids who are severely affected, but also kids who have recovered, like me.
Last September, the mother of cheerleader Keely Pettingill announced that she had recovered, but the media didn’t report that. Her mother was pretty ticked about that, because she wanted a recovery story. She had been told that her daughter would end up in an institution, and she was like “Yeah-college!” My father said “At the next Congressional hearing in November, we have to have a panel of recovered kids.” Thanks, Dad! Too bad Congressman Issa had to cancel.
Recovered kids? Are you serious? Kids can’t “recover” from autism, don’t be silly! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! Man, do I wish people will wake the hell up, because it is a disorder, not just a difference. If people out there stopped seeing homosexuality as a disorder, and autism as just a difference, and instead thought the other way around, we’d be living in a much better world.
I even wrote a poem last March, about “what I would do to help the world”:
If I could change anything about the world…
I would help kids.
Not just in any “normal” way.
I would help kids with autism.
I remember when the numbers were 1 in 150
I was 11
The numbers are now 1 in 50
That’s two percent
I am now 17
People say it’s just a difference
Or a gift
Completely ignoring the fact that
It’s not just “one kind” of autism
They are not all gifted
Autistic kids go missing
They have meltdowns
Some can’t live on their own
I should know
My sister is autistic
I am not an extremist
I just want to help people
Function in normal society
America needs to wake up
And do something about this.
Jennifer Rose is a student at Shepard High School. She is the daughter of Gayle DeLong and Jonthan Rose, and has one sister on the autism spectrum. She will be going to Drew University next year.