The following commentary is from the blog Muslimah Next Door written by Dishad Ali. It addresses an issue that I have raised several times - the lack of real autism awareness created by autism awareness events. The author's comments at Muslimah Next Door under the title When an Autism Awareness Event is Anything But are followed by a letter from Harshita Mahajan the mother of a teenage autistic son addressed to Autism Speaks. I sincerely hope that Autism Speaks takes the mother's concerns, and the contents of her letter, seriously and begins to provide during autism awareness events awareness of the realities of autism disorders including some of the challenges presented by autism mild and severe.
"We’ve hit the middle of April, and while there was a flurry of focus on autism at the start of the month, it still is very much “Autism Awareness Month.” Awareness events sponsored by local and national organizations continue to occur across the United States, but sometimes I wonder how much real “awareness” is actually happening? How many of these events just serve as fundraisers for the organizations sponsoring it?
Fundraising is not bad, and of course autism organizations must capitalize on the attention garnered in this month. But, if you’re going to frame event as “autism awareness,” then there be some education happening to make people “aware” of what autism is, what it entails, how it can be manifested. (Unless it is a closed event just for the autism community) There better be autism ambassadors at these events making sure things go as smooth as possible for those with autism (and without) who attend said events.
My friend Harshita Mahajan took her autistic teenage son Sahil to an autism awareness event recently sponsored by Autism Speaks, at which her son had a lapse of self-control. What happened after that was upsetting and resulted with Harshita leaving with her son. For this to happen at an autism awareness event – well the irony is not lost on me. Read her story. Share it. Let’s make sure events advertised as being about ”autism awareness” educate people, not just fundraise."
I encourage anyone interested in autism disorders to read the letter by Harshita Mahajan as posted on the Muslimah Next Door blog under the commentary When an Autism Awareness Event is Anything But.