Okay so it’s April 1st. Today is the day that we get punked. A free day of fun to lie and turn it into a joke. It’s my poor brother-in-law’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Uncle Marty!)
The first day of April has always been for fools or as Mark Twain put it in these three quotes:
“It’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and leave no doubt.”
“Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.”
“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.”
Yes, April is a month of jokes, significant religious observances, images of rain, realization of spring and birth, and time for paying taxes (here in Uncle Sam’s territory).
I ask you to add one more item of significance to the mental list of things that pops to your mind in April. Think blue. Think Autism Awareness Month.
Officially recognizing “autism awareness” all started in 2007, when the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the need to help improve the lives of children and adults with autism so they can lead full and meaningful lives.
At that time, autism was estimated to affect the lives of 35 million people worldwide.
Is that significant to you? Clearly it is to me. My son is one of that number. That enormous statistic was four years ago. More statistics for you? How about one in 70 boys in the nation have an autism diagnosis.
1 in 315 girls are on the autism spectrum.
Despite the myth that autism equals an intellectual disability, only 41% of children on the autism spectrum actually present with cognitive deficits.
In the United States, we have dedicated the month of April to Autism Awareness since 2007 as well. Senate Resolution 78 passed the Senate without amendment on March 23, 2007. The resolution designates April 2007 as National Autism Awareness Month. It expresses support for increasing federal funding for autism research and stresses the need to begin early intervention services soon after an individual has been diagnosed with autism. It expresses support for the federal government funding 40% of the costs needed to educate children with disabilities. It recognizes the shortage of appropriately trained teachers and the importance of worker training programs that meet the needs of developmentally disabled individuals.
This artificially created April focus on something my family lives with every day places me in an odd position. I did not want to overly promote an artificial time frame because autism does not end with the end of April. I did not want to pass up an opportunity to provide information when it might actually be passed on as “topical” in April.
My contribution to Autism Awareness is the statistics I give you up above. And here below, I’m sharing some myths about autism that were posted by ABC News and to which you can link here . Remember for those of you skimming — these are Myths — Not True!!
1. Autism is an emotional or mental health disorder.
No. Autism is a neurological disorder – the function of the brain is different in people with autism. It is physiological – not mental or emotional
2. There is an autism epidemic.
Per ABC News, experts question this statement because although the numbers are increasing, it is more likely that the increase in numbers is attributable to a broader definition of autism, a wider spectrum and earlier diagnosis, not that there has been a sudden explosion of reported cases.
3. Autism can be cured.
While there are treatments created to improve an autistic child’s ability, there is no known cure for autism. With early intervention with younger children and Applied Behavioral Analysis, a child’s functioning can improve but this does not change the brain’s structure and is not a “cure”.
4. Autism is the result of cold, unemotional parents.
A child’s autism diagnosis has nothing to do with how the child is raised.
5. Individuals with autism always have hidden or exceptional talents.
This myth was popularized by the movie Rain Man and Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of a man with autism. There is a minority group of individuals with autism who are considered savants but that is an unrealistic portrayal of the majority of individuals on the spectrum. Most do not have extraordinary talents or skills. This being said, I know many young children who could read very early and others who excel at math. My own son, age 4, can read and spell words such as library and museum and read beyond his years.
6. Repetitive or ritualistic behaviors should be stopped.
Repetitive behaviors may include hand flapping, spinning, repeating words or phrases, rocking or even banging one’s head. These behaviors are ways to cope with the sensory and neurological issues. While these behaviors are different, they do not make the person who must engage in them “weird” or less worthy of friendship, love or respect.
7. Autistic people cannot have social relationships.
The types and degree of closeness of social relationships is an individual matter. Autism is a spectrum from high functioning people to those profoundly affected. Those who are at one end of the spectrum can and do form social relationships and interact with others. Even those profoundly affected have the ability to communicate and form relationships with the aid of devices and assistance in communication.
So, there you have it. Some myths dispelled. Some statistics given.
If you don’t otherwise talk about autism, and only read it here because you know me beyond this blog, please take to heart the opportunity to begin a discussion, to mention it, to wear blue, to put groovy, far-out, blue light bulbs on your porch for April to spark conversations. (The light bulbs are $1.65 each at Home Depot). Send people here to learn or click my friends on the right side of this blog and visit their blogs for more information.
Don’t be an April fool. Autism is not a disease. Ignorance is the disease. Acceptance is the cure. Please help spread the word.
There are 35 million families that will say, “Thank you.”