I was trying to come up with something eloquent to say about Autism Awareness Month, and I'm drawing a blank. My main purpose in being an advocate for Autism Awareness is not so you'll know that 2 of my children have autism and feel sorry for me or think I'm a supermom. My purpose is really two-fold.
The first reason is for parents. I myself had no idea what autism was, what it looked like, especially in higher-functioning children who, like my own children, did not display that marked regression that I thought was the hallmark of autism. I would just like other parents to know that there is more to autism than Rain Man, and there is more to autism than the child who is talking away until age 18 months -2 years and loses that ability. Yes, there are MANY children who have such a regression. But autism can also be present from birth, in children who talk (and keep on talking), and in children who hug you, and in children who like to be around other people. I want parents to be aware so they can get help for their children early.
The second reason is for the general public. That child you see who is screaming in the store, who is talking your ear off about the weather, who walks up to you and says that your face looks just like a Webkinz gorilla (yep, that happened on Saturday with Reece), that child may not be spoiled, rude, or self-centered. One thing that has come about as a result of my children's diagnoses is that I find myself much less judgmental when I see other children exhibiting "bad behavior" in public. I tend to give that mom or dad an understanding and sympathetic smile, rather than a look (or word) of condemnation. I have been subject to that condemnation so many times during my children's young lives, and it stings and cuts to the very heart of a parent. Of course not all children who are acting out in public have autism spectrum disorders, but regardless, I assume that the parent is doing his or her best job with the challenges facing them, and that I, as a stranger looking on, have NO IDEA what those challenges might be.
This wikipedia article on Aspergers is chock-full of information, including a breakdown in characteristics that is more thorough than a mere checklist. It is also helpful when considering High-Functioning Autism, as the Core Deficits are the same for all Autism Spectrum Disorders.
I'm not going to be leaving this up all month as I have in previous years, so bookmark this page if you want to come back to it! :)