Monday, April 2, 2012

Light it up, baby

Having recently been made aware of the fact that a few people other than my mom follow my little blog (hi, mom) I decided to try to make this a more regular thing.

You're welcome.

Or I'm sorry, whichever is more appropriate.

Also, I found this nifty little tool in my dashboard thingee that shows me where my traffic comes from, and it looks like people are finding me via Google a good bit of the time.

This is the part where I apologize to anyone who accidentally landed here thanks to Google's interpretation of this post's title.  I'm just gonna go ahead and warn you that this is not that type of blog.

You're welcome.  And please feel free to stick around.

ANYwho, in case you're not aware of it, today kicks off national Autism Awareness month.  Henceforth, this will probably also be known as the month about 60% of my Facebook friends click the unfollow button next to my name.  I can get a little obnoxious.

But let me explain WHY I have no problem with this.  Other than my lack of social skills, of course.

Despite recent media coverage putting the word out that statistics taken from data more than four years old show autism being as prevalent as 1 in 88, or 1 in 54 in boys, a shocking amount of people still know very little about autism.

This, given that autism affects more children across this country than diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or down syndrome - COMBINED - is a problem.

Because autism is not a death sentence.

It does not mean a child - or adult - is "broken," ready to be relegated to the social equivalent of the trash bin.  Some of the greatest minds of our time have been affected in some way by The Spectrum.

It is important - so important - for people to see both sides.  For every Rainman, there is an Einstein.  For every LulzSec hacker, there is a Temple Grandin.

And then there was the guy who invented Pokemon, but we're not going to talk about him.

The point is this - the world is shaped, in one way or another, by those who stand out.

In so many cases, the difference between standing out and being relegated to that trash bin, is perception, and the influence of those around the affected person.

Temple Grandin had her mother, who refused to believe that just because some idiot had a white coat and a PhD behind his name, it didn't mean he knew jack about what her daughter was capable of.  The animal behavior and agriculture industry hasn't been the same since.

Einstein's mother reportedly knew something was different about her child - he was mute until age three - but  persisted in getting him to do things outside his comfort zone from an early age, which is the basis of autism therapy today.  We all know how that turned out.

Even Steve Jobs, who has (with some controversy) been rumored to have been on the spectrum, benefited from this perception shift.  When he found out as a child that he was adopted, his first instinct was to identify himself as "not wanted."  His father, though, swiftly corrected him.  "You don't understand," he told Steve.  "We chose you specifically."

Perception is everything.

If we can raise awareness, change the perception of autism, see the potential in all the 1 in 88s instead of just the disability, who knows what these kids can accomplish?

That's why tonight, we lit it up blue at our house.  As I flipped the switch in our foyer, I explained to big C, as best as I could, how that light stood as a reminder that those with autism are no less loved, no less deserving, no less full of potential, than those without.  About ten seconds in, as his eyes glazed just the tiniest bit, I could tell I was losing him, but I'll go over it again with him next year - and the next, and the next.    But he's already got the fundamentals down.  He sees his brother first, and the quirks all take a back seat.  They are inconsequential to who he is, and are irrelevant in relation to his potential.

Now if we can just get the rest of the world to get on board with the common sense of a four-year-old.

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