Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Autism Awareness

There’s a saying around the autism community that “Every day is Autism Awareness Day at our house.” While this is true, Autism Awareness Day for the rest of the world is recognized on April 2. This coincides with Autism Awareness Month in April. There are a few small things you can do to help the cause and spread awareness of this growing disorder.

Let me start by giving you a few things that I do to try to raise awareness for Autism throughout the month of April. These are only a few minor things that I do, but I’m always surprised by the results. I seem to reach a few people that either didn’t know much about it, or that knows someone but were not aware of the issues involved.

The first thing I do is wear a lapel pin. The pin is a multi-colored puzzle ribbon. According to the National Autistic Society:

The puzzle piece logo was first created in 1963 by the National Autistic Society. They explain “that the symbol of the Society should be the puzzle as this did not look like any other commercial or charitable one as far as they could discover. The puzzle piece is so effective because it tells us something about autism: our children are handicapped by a puzzling condition; this isolates them from normal human contact and therefore they do not 'fit in'.”

Since then, the interlocking, multi-colored puzzle piece has become the international symbol of autism. Its significance has become multi-faceted. For some it represents the mystery and complexity of the disorder, for others it represents the mechanical nature of an autistics persons thought process. The bright colors are said to represent hope.

While this is a simple enough gesture. It never fails that I get at least two people a day that ask me what the ribbon is for. This accomplishes what I set out to do. Just be prepared, if you do wear one, to answer questions.

I change my picture on facebook for the month. I found a picture online last year that includes a heart with puzzle pieces. Some have told me that it looks a little girlish, but I really don’t care. I thought it was a cool one though. I chose this one for several reasons, but the main one is because it says that it’s for autism awareness. There is little room for question, but I do always seem to get response from it, which is welcome.

The last thing that I do is to hold workshops at the college. I am fortunate enough to be in the position to be able to share the information that I have found. Despite the numbers and percentages I am always surprised by the amount of people that know someone that is affected by autism. I usually end up answer questions (as best I can) for 15-30 minutes after a workshop.

These again are some small things that I do. However, you may be asking yourself what you can do. Just remember that any little thing will help.  Here are a few suggestions.

There are several good websites available to purchase merchandise to help. These sites are great for several reasons, but the most important is that most of them will donate proceeds to Autism research. I would check to make sure that this is the case though. Some of the merchandise includes jewelry, wristbands, tattoos (fake, although real is certainly a good way too), key chains, t-shirts, and hats.

You’ve seen the forwards on facebook that say something along the lines of: “Please post this for an hour;” or “97 percent won’t repost this;” or “If you know someone who…” While those seem annoying to many, those affected by the disorder, disease, or illness truly appreciate seeing that someone cares enough to post them. It also causes the people who read those, annoyed or not, will think about the issue mentioned in the post. Many will even take a few minutes to research the issue if they do not fully understand it (mission accomplished). That’s not to mention that it doesn’t hurt, and could only take a minute. That is why I encourage everyone to take a second and post a little something about Autism. Even if it just says: “I love someone who is autistic.” Others may want to change their profile picture to an Autism ribbon, or puzzle piece. Either way it will help the cause.

No matter what you do I just hope that each and every one of you reading this column will do a little something to help spread the word. There are too many people around that don’t fully understand Autism. That is why we have to do everything that we can to get the word out, no matter how small.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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