Today is World Autism Awareness Day.
Yesterday started Autism Awareness Month.
As part of World Autism Awareness Day, an event called Light It Up Blue also takes place. Starting last night, different landmarks throughout the world like the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower, lit up part of their buildings in support of Light It Up Blue.
That probably sounds familiar since I mentioned it in my column last week. There are many ways you can take part in Light It Up Blue.
From simply wearing blue you would be supporting a cause. You can decorate in blue, make baked goods and decorate them in blue, anything related to blue. It's just one more way to spread awareness. That's what Light It Up Blue is all about.
That brings me to my main point of this column. The biggest problems when it comes to autism are awareness and acceptance.
Too many people just don't care. That's what really sucks. I don't want to imply that nobody has a heart, but there are certainly enough people who are simply heartless.
Let me make it clear right off that I know there are other difficulties people go through besides autism and I do support other causes. However, autism is what I know best and that is my focus, especially considering April is its awareness month.
I couldn't begin to tell you how many times my family and I have had to explain what autism is and why my brother acts the way he does. There is nothing "wrong" with him and there is no reason to act like he needs to be "cured." The fact of the matter is he just needs extra help making it through each day in a society that isn't too friendly to anyone who isn't considered "normal."
The real question you need to ask yourself is if there really is such a thing as "normal." We are all different and we all have our flaws. We all have different personalities, different ways of coping through hard times and stress, different ways of having fun and different ways of joking around. We are all just different.
How can society branch "normal" out of that? It just isn't possible. But when someone has a mental or physical disability and needs that extra help, society wants to count them as "outcasts," when they are by no means that way.
The reason it's called the autism spectrum disorder is because there is so much involved and there are different levels of diagnoses. A lot of the symptoms overlap, but each case is different. There is also the misconception that only children have autism and that it just goes away. That isn't the case at all. Many adults also have autism.
Page 2 of 3 - It's things like all of this that make the importance of awareness even greater. But unfortunately, not everyone sees it as an important issue. So many people see April as the ONLY time that they should care about autism, but, again, that isn't how it should be.
The point of Autism Awareness Month and Light It Up Blue is to help spread awareness. That doesn't mean that organizations only do research and help families one month out of the year.
Autism ISN'T a disease. People who are on the spectrum do NOT need to be "cured." They just need extra help and there's no problem with that. Yes they want to feel more "normal," but honestly, most of these individuals are accepting of themselves and who they are. It's SOCIETY that needs to change its viewpoint.
Again, autism isn't the only problem people face, but it is very important. Acceptance and awareness are key, and those two things are, unfortunately, not as common as they should be. Society would rather say that those with disabilities are "stupid" and "can't do anything," rather than accepting them for who they are and giving them a chance.
How many of you, before reading this column, knew that the prevalence of autism is currently 1 in 50 (and growing)? How many of you knew beforehand that 4 out of 5 on the spectrum are male?
Take that into perspective. One out of every 50 people are on the spectrum and out of those diagnosed, 4 out of every 5 people are male.
Are you really going to tell me that this is an issue that should just be swept under the rug? What if that was your child, your sibling, you relative, your friend, your neighbor? Wouldn't you want people to accept them too? Wouldn't you want autism awareness spread?
If you have never had any experience with someone with special needs I suggest you make an effort. If you've only had a few small encounters, I suggest you try having more. I guarantee you will learn something. Take a chance. See the world from someone else's eyes. It'll change your life for the better.
I learn more from my autistic brother than I do from anybody else and I would NEVER want him to be anything except who he is!
There are many who care about autism and those on the spectrum, but there are just as many-if not more-who could care less, and that is what's wrong with society. That goes for autism, but it also goes for any other physical and mental disability.
Bottom line is more awareness and acceptance is needed and imperative if these individuals are to feel like they are worth something. It takes more than just love from a family to not make them be referred to as "outcasts," but rather, as human beings.
Page 3 of 3 - April is Autism Awareness Month. But to everyone who has any direct connection to someone on the spectrum, our awareness happens 24/7, 365 days of the year.
I hope you take part in Light It Up Blue today and show your support for autism. I hope that you will keep it in mind throughout the year, and not just one month that is named for autism awareness. This isn't something that should be swept under the rug.
Waters is a staff writer for The Wayne Independent and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org