News and Notes from The Johnson Center

World Autism Awareness Day

JCCHD | Mon, April 02, 2012 | [Community][Events][News]

Today, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day. The Centers for Disease Control recently released data that in 2008, one eight-year-old out of every 88 in the US had an autism spectrum diagnosis – this was an increase of 23% from the previous two years. There are many layers to understanding and discussing this complex issue, but one thing is clear: many people either have autism or love someone who does.

So how does one commemorate World Autism Awareness Day and what is it we want people to be aware of? The answer may depend on who you ask but perhaps there are at least three points we can all agree on.

First, we should recognize and respect the hard work and diligence of people living with autism.  We work with many children and young adults who are in therapies and programs many hours a day, striving to learn everything from basic living skills to navigating more complex social situations. The work ethic and effort that these amazing people demonstrate everyday is inspiring. We are grateful for the privilege of being a part of helping someone learn to communicate, for the joy of seeing the “potty-dance” when a seven-year-old masters going to the bathroom on her own, and for the honor of helping a young man learn the skills to make friends.

Second, we must honor and acknowledge the parents and families that move mountains to provide the support their loved ones need to find happiness and fulfill their potential. The devotion, courage, and love that define these families never ceases to amaze those who are blessed enough to see it.

Third, we are grateful for the commitment of the professionals who dedicate their lives to people living with autism. Teachers, doctors, researchers, therapists, nurses, aides, tutors, dieticians, behaviorists, social workers, advocates, service animal trainers, job coaches….the list of amazing people that spend the majority of their time teaching, caring for, and improving the lives of people with autism is a long one and their service and dedication is something we should all take note of and recognize.

So what can you do to commemorate this day?  If you know someone with autism, take a moment to recognize their efforts and achievements. Never underestimate the power of the words “I am proud of you.” If you know a parent of a child with autism, recognize their efforts to support their loved one. When a parent is weaving their way through the maze of information and interventions, it is easy to feel lost and to feel as if you are missing something important. Recognition that their efforts are noted and inspiring can be uplifting and energizing.

But let’s keep in mind that the sun comes up tomorrow and even though it will no longer be World Autism Awareness Day, the world will still be full of people with autism and there is still much work to be done. So don’t check this off your list and move on. Be mindful of the growing need for qualified clinicians and the importance of early intensive intervention. Recognize and learn more about the importance of appropriate healthcare. Get involved in research – we need answers now and the only way to find these answers is through research studies. Many institutions, including ours, work hard to enroll people in the studies that will help find solutions and often people without autism are needed to participate.

Our hope for this World Autism Awareness Day is that each person with autism feels valued and each family living with autism feels supported….and that this holds true for more than one day a year.