-Phillip C. McGraw
Today is World Autism Awareness Day. It is a day where the major media outlets will likely feature stories about autism, and many autism bloggers will be posting about their experiences with autism. And this is good.
But is it enough? Hardly. And sadly, those stories of today will be long forgotten by tomorrow.
Kim Stagliano, the Managing Editor of Age of Autism and a fine writer, recently wrote a piece renaming this April as Autism Epidemic Action Month. Her point is simple - autism awareness is nothing unless we do something to back it up.
It's interesting to go to the World Autism Awareness Day website and check out the events going on in commemoration. There are some that are sponsoring conferences featuring speakers who work in the autism field or parents of children on the autism spectrum. But a lot of the events listed have one purpose - to raise money. The perfect example is the very organization sponsoring World Autism Awareness Day - Autism Speaks. Here is their list of events for today:
- Ring the bell at the Stock Exchange.
- Auction off on-line artwork by Yoko Ono featuring the hideous puzzle piece connotation (more on that in a future post) for - fundraising.
- A self-promotional campaign with the Ad Council and 150 strollers directing people to the Autism Speaks website to "learn the signs." The strollers will then be donated to a local non-profit which distributes them to needy families.
- A special performance of a contemporary dance piece by dre.dance with dance moves evolved from "typical autism behavior." The purpose of this performance - fundraising!
In addition, Autism Speaks and the Ad Council are working with Nick Jr. and their character, Wubbzy, to promote the Autism Speaks event Walk Now on the Web, who's purpose is - yes - fundraising!!!
So is that what this day is all about? Raising money? Raising the awareness of Autism Speaks?
How about we preach autism awareness by doing REAL things. Here are some that Kim Stagliano suggested, plus some of my own.
- Help a parent with a child on the spectrum by offering to babysit for an hour or two so the parent has time to go shopping, take a nap, or otherwise just relax.
- Considering a donation to Autism Speaks? Click over to Lend4Health instead and contribute to a microloan so a family can get the doctor's visits and treatments they need.
- Become active in your local autism support group and give parents of children on the spectrum an outlet where they know they can get support.
- Don't have a support group in your area? Then get together with some families and start one!
- Check out my dear friend Katherine, the GFCF Mommy's post today on 10 things we can do this day, this month, or any month.
For my part, I am taking on one of my greatest challenges this month. On April 16, I will be doing a presentation on autism for Helena's 4th grade class. What better people to talk autism with than the peers of your child on the spectrum!
As I said yesterday, autism awareness goes beyond one month - it is a 24/7/365 job. And, as the GFCF Mommy points out, words are still needed. But unless we follow up those words with positive, tangible actions that actually help families experiencing life on the spectrum, or raise awareness with those closest to our ASD children, how effective are those words?