Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Autism Awareness Month - World Autism Day

A Child is diagnosed every 11 minutes with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In a single day that's 131 children that are seeking love, understanding and support for the differences that make them unique. Are we ready?

Thankfully for us we have a wealth of information and support right here in our community.

Today is World Autism Day ~ a Kick Start to Autism Awareness Month - Though some with ASD are non-verbal - Autism Does Speak and it's time that we were all listening. 

I had someone ask me the other day why I would support Autism, none of my children have autism.  I have to say I was stunned speechless at that question.  For those who know me, I'm not speechless very often.. 

A far better question perhaps, is why wouldn't I support it?

The truth of the matter is that though our nephew has Autism, I really didn't know much at all about it.  My hubby's sister and her family live in Kingston and we really don't get to see them very often.  Sure, we do the family holidays and such, but my exposure to Autism had been pretty limited.  Hearing stories, and limited visits can in no way be compared to actually living with it, y'know?  

In fact, when I got involved volunteering for Autism several years ago it was through a caring caregiver who was doing some light housekeeping for us when my teddy-bear was recovering from a car accident.  She would come in and while she worked we'd chat, and she'd come in one day buzzing about an event she was planning.  A Walk for Autism, inspired by twin boys that she cared for in the  course of her work.  She saw the mom's frustration and how little support there seemed to be and she wanted to do something..  and she did.  

Sadly, her employer felt it a conflict for their staff to host such events so she needed someone to help out.  I figured if it was making phone calls, and sending e-mails well heck, *I* could do that!  For the next couple of years  I helped out in the plotting department and my teddy-bear ran the BBQ for the lunch after the walk.  Certainly not a marathon, but every little bit helps, right?

In more recent years, I came to meet a lady that I'm proud to count among my best friends.  I remember the first time she was coming to my house and how she wasn't going to come if she couldn't make arrangements for her son.  I remember feeling shocked by that, we had kids and it never occurred to me not to allow her to bring her kids or to tell her to leave her kids at home. Who does that?  I'd  had many years as a Home Daycare Provider, Beaver Leader, Spark Leader..  and much to her surprise I told her to bring him along!  

I wasn't sure what to expect that day, my friend's reaction and hesitance left me wondering if perhaps I ought to be worried..  to hear that people often told her not to come if she "had" to bring the kids.  I mean come on.. how bad could it be? 

The kids played outside for a short while with my youngest daughter, before my friend's daughter came to make cards with with us while her son happily played with the Wii.  If I hadn't been told about his ASD diagnosis, I could have told you he was a very bright and active young man, that the dynamic duo gave their mother a run for her money on a daily basis.. but never would I have told you that either child should be banished to home while the adults went out to play.  They're not animals to be caged,  they are children and like all children; they deserve love, respect and all the love and happiness their hearts can hold. If anything, I found myself wondering if this little guy was asking such high-brow questions of his mom now, what the heck was she gonna do when he hit his teens.  I couldn't believe that such articulate questions were coming from such a pint-sized package.  

That first visit was a real eye opener.  My friend's son wasn't a bad child, but he was certainly active.  In watching my friend leave the crafting table and go back and forth between her son, and her daughter who seemed to be working entirely too hard to get whatever piece of mom's attention that her brother had I found myself wondering how she managed to get anything done EVER, let alone run a household, run a business and maintain her family.  I was in complete awe of her strength and composure that day and I still regard her among the strongest women I know.  

Her daughter has since been diagnosed on the Spectrum as well.  I remember smiling when my friend shared this with me.  She'd suspected that all along but hadn't yet found someone to listen and actually hear.  

Sometimes when we vent, we only really want someone to hear us, not comment, not criticize, and not tell us what we should do.  Sometimes in silence and just being there.  We can provide the best support there is.  Perhaps in that, we find acceptance. 

I hosted an event last night at the Galop Gallery as a Kick-Off to Autism Awareness Month.  A Number of vendors came out to support Autism, and to meet Friends for Autism representatives April and Cynthia who came out for the occasion.  Check back on my blog for more about that event soon. 

In the meantime the fundraisers are all running for the remainder of the month, visit the event link for links to all of the supporting vendors and where their Autism donation will be sent.  Thanks for considering! 
If you are a family member or caregiver to someone living with autism, please consider contacting Friends for Autism or , Autism Ontario.  For those in the Brockville area check out the Facebook Support Group Brockville Autism.

If you are interested in learning more about supporting those living with ASD, or are interested in volunteering or donating to the cause. Please contact the organizations above. They'll be sure to steer you in the right direction.

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