Autism itself is nothing to celebrate as it challenges and devastates lives around the world, but the incredible individuals who live with it and those who care for and nurture them deserve celebrating today on World Autism Awareness Day ... and every day. They are, simply put, heroic warriors who are navigating a world that is challenging, mysterious, and filled with fear for the future.
Nearly all of us know someone who is affected -- who has gotten the heartbreaking diagnosis, or we've received the news ourselves. But what can we do to help? Awareness is the first step -- knowing the facts, learning about the disease, educating others:
- Approximately 67 million people are affected by autism around the world
- It's the fastest-growing developmental disability in the world
- More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.
- There is no medical detection or cure for autism, but early intervention improves outcomes
Wills Price did a great job explaining why awareness matters in his letter to President Obama asking him to light the White House blue tonight as part of Autism Speaks' Light It Up Blue campaign.
It is very difficult for me to talk about how sad I was when my autism was really bad. It might have helped if people understood my autism more.
So we can all light our houses blue and there are events to attend around the world, which is great, but what can do to directly help another family we may know who is living with autism? Kymberly Grosso, mother to a 13-year-old son with Asperger's, did a great blog post for Psychology Today in January titled 10 Things You Can do to Help a Family Affected by Autism, which provides some great ideas.
She discusses everything from not judging children who have outbursts in public places to providing respite for mothers who are often drained by the duties of caring for their children. Her closing paragraph says it all:
I am forever grateful to those friends and family members who supported our family after the diagnosis. They made a choice to accept my son for who he is and help us in any way they could. Making the choice to support a family affected by autism is one of the greatest gifts you can give. It is also very likely that your act of kindness may turn out to be one of the greatest gifts you receive back as well.
How are you celebrating World Autism Day? If you have a child affected by autism what's the most helpful thing someone has done for you?
Image via worldautismawarenessday.org