Friday, March 27, 2009

Autism Awareness? Start By Telling The Truth

April is Autism Awareness Month in the United States and April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. While some want to believe that every genius or person of exceptional ability from Mozart to Van Gogh to Einstein was autistic there is no way such speculation can possibly be substantiated.

Others focus on the accomplishments of modern day persons with autism like the amazing Dr. Temple Grandin. Such persons with autism should be celebrated and their accomplishments made known to the world. But autism awareness should not be limited to promoting the positive contributions of some persons with High Functioning Autism or Aspergers.

The world should also be informed about people like the two young autistic men facing murder charges, one for the death of his mother, and the young man in Fredericton, New Brunswick who had to be removed from his parents' residence after his mother was injured during a violent outburst at his home. As an autism advocate here in New Brunswick, as a legal counsel who has done some work with persons with Aspergers and as a Blogger I have received information of similar stories involving families with autistic children in New Brunswick. I have visited first Centracare; and subsequently the Restigouche Regional Hospital Psychiatric unit in Campbellton and seen autistic persons living in institutional care.

Thank you to Dr. Grandin ... and to Jason Oldford of Fredericton New Brunswick for being such a fine example of what some autistic persons can do. Jason is a personal friend and a long time autism and Aspergers advocate in New Brunswick who has addressed his challenges head on with public speaking activities at Toastmasters and at autism events.

Several years ago on a St. Patrick's day meeting of autism parents and government representatives Jason attended on his own initiative and addressed all of us. He spoke eloquently, from the heart, about his own experiences and offered his insights about growing up with Aspergers. He did so in a way that was respectful of parents' responsibilities and that brought tears to the eyes of many parents in attendance. Jason's comments before the Senate Comittee studying autism treatment and financing in Canada were highlighted by the Committee in its report. As an Autism Society New Brunswick director who benefited from Jason's organizational skills and in depth knowledge of a number of important subjects I am well aware of the positive contributions that can be made by many persons with autism and Aspergers.

There are many other outstanding accomplishments of persons with autism which appear every day on the internet including those of Alex Bain of PEI whose blog site Runman reports his running successes. But the harsher realities of autism should also be made known on autism awareness days wherever and whenever they are celebrated. We do no favors to the severely autistic by pretending they do not exist and by whitewashing from the public consciousness the harsher realities they face.

On World Autism Awareness Day start by obeying every parent's prime directive to their children - tell the truth.

Tell the truth about autism, the whole truth.

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Anonymous said...

The truth for me this morning is a big sister that got her hair pulled out by her brother who as severe autism, a sleep deprived mom because my son wakes up every other night at 3 or 4 in the morning and a dad that will be staying home this afternoon because the daycare can't find a remplacement support worker for our son.

Stephanie said...

This semester I am raising awareness about people with severe disabilities and the families who care for them. I've decided to do it in the best ways I know how: art, poetry and music.

Remember the painting I made for Connor? I've shown it to others, told them the story about it and about the lives of the severely disabled and their families (I never use personal information, so don't worry).

At first people didn't really understand the whole idea and think of Christopher Reeves as being "severely disabled." But I explained differences and educated them a bit about "the forgotten ones."

I do what I can.

Unknown said...

Stephanie I certainly do remember the painting you did for Conor. We loved it.

Do I have your permission to add it permanently to the sidebar of my blog?

Stephanie said...

Yes, that's fine!

Unknown said...

Thank you Stephanie.

I have added the Boy with Balloons image to my side bar.