9.15.2010

Autism Awareness

Large Autism Awareness Magnet 4"x 8"
I've often been a little alarmed, when, driving down a street, a number of vehicles in front of me bear the easily-recognizable autism awareness ribbon.

Why are so many people facing the difficulties of autism? Are there really this many children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc., afflicted? Why doesn't someone do something to prevent and properly care for these kids?

The subtleties of unknown/unfamiliar ailments are as varied as the hues in a rainbow. Or so it seems to me.

I happened on an article in The Atlantic today (Autism's First Child by John Donovan and Caren Zucker), that really put much in perspective for me about autism. Which I want to call a condition and not an ailment, illness, or disease. For it is none of these. It's a condition.

It makes me a little angry that specialists like doctors and psychologists, whom we go to for help in our darkest hours, have no real answers as to why and how.

The article uses a particular case of a completely functional individual, Donald Triplett, who has been loved and accepted. He has been able, as he grew into adulthood and now his golden years, to become a little more extroverted, making others who don't know him think he's merely eccentric rather than autistic. That's quite the achievement, and it's a truly lovely story that ends well because he and those who know him and get to know him, keep on trucking.

The important statement that's made in the article is that this man, Donald, was gifted in more ways than one. His parents were respected pillars of the community (banking family) and well-to-do, something that not all autism sufferers and their families can boast. Donald was luckier than many, as the community respected him just as they did his family. They gave him the benefit of the doubt, they accepted him as one of them (the community), and above all, they've now become protective of him as a prized jewel.

But his lessons are also lessons for all of us. It's important to provide these individuals ambitious challenges and projects to keep them productive and fulfilled. They have likes and dislikes, which they can make known with a stronger emphasis than the rest of us. They also have ambition and seek to be useful and productive. Don't we all really? I definitely know that's one goal I've been working on, for myself, for quite a while. Be productive, blend in a little, have a support system, be happy.

I'm ever so glad I was able to serendipitously happen on this article, because it made my day.