Autism Awareness Month Still a Work in Progress

Leading up to this year’s Autism Awareness Month, I began with real hope in my heart. I knew that a trailer would be released on April 1st for a new documentary film entitled “The United States of Autism” that my family and I were featured in and we were also celebrating World Autism Awareness Day again on April 2nd. I truly thought this was a year of action and even took it upon myself to personally call 250 social service and corporate entities to find out if any of them had plans for the month. My hope quickly turned to disappointment.

Of those 250 organizations, not one had plans to do anything for the public, their employees or those dealing with autism. No education, activities or action plans were in place. In fairness, the feedback was a little skewed because I omitted a few companies that have been visible supporters of Autism Speaks for a few years ( Toys R US and Lindt Chocolate, to name a few). Additionally, The White House had refused to join in on the light it up blue campaign and we were able to bring attention to the administration’s lack of follow through on promises to appoint an Autism Czar this term.

One bright spot this year was the daily messaging and replication of news on social media sites. Countless tweets have been sent this month on the topic of autism awareness and action by myself and others, but I wish more would get involved. The world is watching.

A mother has taken it upon herself to personally tweet every celebrity, asking them to retweet basic statistics and facts about autism. In about a two week period, about 25 have responded. However, a retweet alone is not enough and more celebrities need to do more by stepping up and getting involved.

I have to commend Autism Speaks for turning up the spotlight on a few television shows. I also admire the series Holly Robinson Peete has done for The Talk CBS, as well as Robert MacNeil for coming out of retirement to bring attention to his grandson and family. Overall though, the voices of parents and those in need are still not loud enough and awareness without movement to action only highlights the negligence on our part.

In an ideal world, the walls between the “have” and “have-nots” get knocked down. The unfortunate reality is that there are dramatic differences in
availability of services for families based on higher incomes and demographics. I think this is socially, morally and legally wrong. This must change. We have seen enough buildings lit up blue, walks, runs, safety fairs, statistics and stock market bell ringings. It’s now time that we cross the
street and ask our neighbors what they need.

Recently, I heard and tweeted the following quote: “One person cannot help everyone, but everyone can help one.”

I initially heard this on a local Christian radio station broadcast in the Chicago area while introducing a missions trip to help desperate children in Peru this summer. Juxtaposed against the backdrop of Autism Awareness Month, I was frustrated that very little had been said about autism.

Many times, autism is so complex and so overwhelming, it paralyzes people to the point of inaction. It is our job to simplify it so people respond.

A good Samaritan recently mowed my yard and others have helped with buying and cooking my son Tanner’s special GFCF diet food. Simple moves and acts of kindness such as these could save a life. Respite is only a dream for many families. There is much more need than there are those willing to help.

This year, do your best to get involved and turn the awareness of April into action all year round.

God Bless.