April is a time of renewal, when expected showers will prepare the earth for roots to take sprout and grow into bright blooms that will carry us into spring holidays and the increasing warmth of summer. A time of renewal in every sense of the word, for some, spiritually, and for others, inspiring a desire to clean house and make everything fresh again.
April also indicates we have quickly descended into the second quarter of the year….already! And as we make our way through the month, it is necessary to look at another significant title that April holds, for it is also National Autism Awareness Month. And just as our flowers are blooming and require our attention, some of the sweetest, softest, most beautiful humans on the planet bloom before us every day as children and adults with autism.
Who is the face of Autism? For so many, they are our children, loved ones, friends, neighbors, students, grandchildren, and peers. Dear children, who have such a soul behind eyes that may not meet yours, and voices you may never hear, or if you do, you may not understand due to language deficiencies. Some people may be fearful of their unexpected outbursts and aggressive behavior, further hindering interactions. Families will see pooled resources dwindle as they struggle to afford the extra therapies often required to care for those diagnosed, and siblings may take second chair to their needier brother or sister. Relationships can strain over the added pressure of caring for these children and at this moment in time, the number of those diagnosed is rising without a clear cure in sight.
In 2016, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that 1 in every 68 babies born will have autism. Lifetime expenditures for the care of a person with autism is estimated to top $2.4 million. It is estimated that the United States will spend $90 billion this year in autism related costs for research, insurance costs, Medicaid waivers, educational spending, housing, and other aspects of the condition. So, if you’re wondering what you can do, donations are what will fuel the frenzy to eradicate this complex developmental disability. The Autism Society is one vetted 501(c)(3) organization which will use your tax-deductible donation for the assistance of those affected by autism.
Beyond that, there are several ways you can get involved in your community to learn about autism, because if you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know someone who is affected, statistically speaking, you likely will. For starters, if you’re in a public setting and you see a child having a behavior that is disruptive to you and you see the parent ignoring the upset child, don’t assume you are witnessing bad parenting. Oftentimes a child with autism will be on sensory overload with the lights, crowds, people, abundance of items, etc. and their only outlet at that moment may be an outburst. Remember empathy for the parent who must deal with this day in and day out, often facing isolation to deal with avoidance of public situations. As a business owner, be mindful of ways you could help children with sensory disorders. Own a bowling alley or skating rink? Consider offering special times for children with autism to enjoy your venues. You may be surprised at the large community that is out there seeking these opportunities for their children. Know somebody who has a miniature golf course or perhaps a bouncy house business? Maybe they would be interested in coming together on behalf of so many children who often must miss out on these experiences due to crowds and noise.
In Sarasota County, Face Autism is a group which unites families with autism with resources to make life easier. They partner with various businesses in the area to offer dance lessons, Lego building classes, music classes and can provide referrals for further therapies. There are special sensory days at local movie theaters which allow the kids to make noise if they need to and keep the lights a little brighter than a completely dark theater, along with Easter egg hunts, and special times with Santa during the winter holidays.
As the numbers grow, the need for understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder is crucial. To look into the eyes of a child with a huge capacity to love, sometimes even greater than a typical child and always without hesitation, is to look for and seek out their spark. Unlocking their world so that we may communicate and address their needs is essential as human beings. Their love abounds and our reaction must include the key elements of Autism Awareness Month which are awareness, action, acceptance, inclusion, and appreciation. Let’s work toward those goals with our money, time, and love.
Photos: Hepingting courtesy of Autism 25 on Flickr, commercial use allowed, Autism courtesy of Malik Abdallah on Flickr, commercial use allowed, Bottom photo- Deposit Photos