typical world has not yet felt the heat?"
April, aka Autism Awareness Month, has ended, and I can't help but think it's doing nothing to make our country more aware of autism, and the crushing challenges it is bringing to our society.
I already know the big issues: the vacuum of appropriate and sustainable programs, the tsunami of young adults like my son who need lifelong care, the ridiculously few options and choices for adults aging out of school, but is it just me or do you also feel the typical world has not yet felt the heat?
When will the problem will seem sufficiently real and critical to them so that they are not just "aware" but to also stand beside us, or better still in front of us, with legislators and policymakers?
My fear is that while I applaud various TV shows and news magazines and even authors tepidly introducing the world to the spectrum known as autism, most of the spectrum that makes it in the media possess way, way more ability then what most of us know to be the challenges our young adults truly face.
We're shown slight tics, peculiarity, social angst and the ever popular "lack of eye contact" to encapsulate the individual with autism. I fear the world wonders why parents and caregivers are so overwhelmed and anxious and desperate about our children's future when what they see in the mainstream are all relatively mild traits that a neurotypical person may display. And blue buildings and cheerful puzzle ribbons.
Other then a handful of BBC documentaries and the recent "Jack of the Red Hearts" movie on Lifetime, nonverbal, maladaptive behaviorally challenged young adults barely make a dent in the public consciousness. Where are the self injurious, feces smearing, head banging, flight risk, seizure driven, dirt eating, never to drive, marry, bear and raise children, vote, join the military, sign a contract or recognize a 20-dollar bill is more money than five bucks, individuals with autism?
I fear "awareness" may be backfiring: the public is getting a sugar-coated view of our grown children's challenges and the urgent issues they and their families face. They are overshadowed in the media by a much rosier picture.
So, what can we do? Let's make Autism Awareness Month 2017 a turn-around for our community, we must get the full spectrum of autism in the public eye. When the public sees people with the most minuscule of mental or functional disability as the face of "autism," we are feeding them a baldfaced lie.
The author is the Bay Area mother of a young man with autism.