BASS: For some parents, every month is Autism Awareness Month
It’s Autism Awareness Month.
The condition has been making the news recently, with studies showing a greater incidence of autism being reported than ever before.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, says one in 88 kids has the disorder, an increase from a decade ago, when it was estimated to be one in 110 children.
There have been other news stories on autism recently. Apparently, parents of autistic kids are more likely to get colds, coughs and headaches as a result of the stresses linked with caring for our kids.
I’m not so sure about that. My husband and I have raised five kids and I think each one of them brought his or her own basketful of germs and headache-inducing moments.
Apparently we’re also living with a higher level of some protein that is linked to coronary heart disease and diabetes.
Mothers of children with autism earn 56 per cent less than those whose children don’t have it, another study has shown.
I’ve really never given much thought to any of that before — perhaps because every single day of my life, my son, who lives with autism, gets up in the morning with a smile on his face, says good morning to me and gets ready for school.
That has a value that far exceeds any health or wealth cost.
When he was barely two years old, you see, we were told by a highly regarded developmental pediatrician that our boy would never talk.
He would never have meaningful social interaction.
It was a grim future — and one many parents do live with every day.
For us, though, things didn’t go the way the doctor had said they would.
We took a course to learn how to engage our boy to break through and get him to talk.
It was painstaking work that became the norm for us and our other kids — but, we all persevered and, now, my boy has acted in several plays and is majoring in theatre in high school.
The autism is still prevalent, but it has also given him the facility to learn a script overnight or, if it’s fairly long, in a couple of days.
We had to learn how important words are to him and had some wonderful teachers.
Julie Chambers, the primary therapist who has guided us on our autistic journey, taught us that, when our son found himself in situations that simply made no sense to his autistic-controlled brain and he’d have trouble functioning, the best way to get his attention was to write him a note, asking what was wrong.
He would write a reply.
From there came Ann Hibbard, who has taught him so many lifeskills by doing them with him. Their shopping expeditions are almost legendary in the family.
School has provided another wealth of people who have come along with us on our autism journey, including some amazing support workers and teachers.
Sure, it took some of them some time to figure out how to interact with our son, but they did and he flourished.
Not all moments were great; there was at least one teacher with whom I had some significant disagreements about whether our boy really would graduate from high school.
It took some time to explain that it didn’t matter if he would — but he was definitely going to get the opportunity to try to do it.
He’ll be graduating next year and talks about going to Thompson Rivers University.
Along the way, we’ve met a lot of other families with autistic children and they’ve each had their own unique stories — as different as the many faces of autism itself.
The one thing we have in common, though, is that, while we appreciate the attention given to the condition every April, it’s really not for us.
Because, the simple reality is, every month is autism month for us.