Saturday, April 9, 2016

Let's Talk About This...










I wrote a post on FaceBook last week that began with this statement or similar one: 'April is Autism Awareness Month and if you don't know that by now, you must be living under a rock.'
I meant it in a humorous way, but let's face it...it is a true statement. There is so much dialogue and information and celebrity spots and Facebook postings and 'Light it up Blue' information being thrown at the public, I really do believe a person would have to be in a coma to not know this is Autism Awareness Month.
Is it a good thing? Yes and no, in my humble opinion. Definitely 'yes' to making people aware of the many facets to autism and the individuals that are diagnosed with it. Perhaps 'no' to the overkill of advertising.
 It is like anything else; just because you know some facts about a certain subject, does it make any difference in your daily life? Are you kinder and more tolerant of a child's behaviors in a restaurant? (A friend of mine told me they were enjoying dinner with their son at a local restaurant last week when the server told them a couple was being escorted out because they complained about my friend's adult son with autism. ) Does it stop those kind of behaviors? Does it make the social lives of young adults on the spectrum any better? Are their peers any more inclusive of them? Perhaps and perhaps not. It obviously made the management of that restaurant more aware and tolerant. YAY
Until a diagnosis of autism affects you or your family or your friend in some way, it may not make any difference.
That is true of most things, isn't it? We see, read and hear much information about many diseases or situations, but until it affects us personally...does it really change our daily actions?
So....you are asking if I think all the 'Awareness' campaigns are a waste of time and money. NO, emphatically, NO. They are a necessity and if being aware of some facts about autism helps just ONE person to be kinder or more tolerant, then it is all worth it.

Kalisha, my adult daughter who is on the spectrum and has had Asperger's and mild intellectual disabilities with just a smidge of OCD and some seizure issues added into the mix, is employed by Parkview Field (a local Minor League Baseball stadium) to hand out the programs and greet people when they enter the stadium. This is her third summer of doing this. While it may seem like an odd job for someone with autism (since the stereotypical concept is they are all shy and uncommunicative) it is perfect for Kalisha, who is very social and has never met a stranger...seriously.
Recently, I was contacted by a young man from Bethesda Communities in Watertown, WI. Bethesda has a facility in Fort Wayne, IN, also and Kalisha is a client there. He wanted to know if a media coordinator could contact all the media outlets in Ft. Wayne and see if there was some interest in featuring stories and articles about her, her life and her employment at Parkview Field. He asked me if I thought she would enjoy being called a role model for the autistic community.
I seriously had to stifle a laugh about that. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are aware of some of Kalisha's activities and I'm pretty certain they would not fall under the role model category.
However...I told him, "Yes, I think she would enjoy that."
She is going to be interviewed tonight for an article in the local paper and then later, there will be a television interview with local WPTA/WISE stations (ABC/NBC affiliates).
She is absolutely thrilled by this and I am so happy for her and her chance to tell people and show them that a diagnosis of autism, while devastating, is not necessarily a 'death sentence' for families, I must admit, there is a bit of trepidation on my part when someone puts a microphone in front of Kalisha.

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