April is right around the corner, and I'm gearing up for a very vocal Autism Awareness Month. I'm going to change my profile picture on every website that I have one to represent Autism Awareness. I'm planning on putting a blue streak in my hair. Big Brother is getting into the act and asking to have me dye his hair as well for his birthday (he's turning 7) in the middle of April. Guess what color he asked for?
You see, Autism Awareness Month may not mean much to you. But it means a lot to me. It's my chance to have everyone helping me promote awareness for a condition that affects my family every day. Every day, my husband and I see our children tantrum because they can't effectively tell us with words what is happening to them. We see them trapped in their own bodies at times, even though they are quite verbal, because they don't understand it themselves. We see them struggling to "fit in" with their peers. Or, more precisely, we see ourselves trying to help them fit in, as they really don't care at this point whether they have friends or not.
"Autism" almost plagues me everywhere I go. It's become my passion to convince others to "get it"—to understand what we see our children go through every day. It's an obsession.
I try to help others see that they can't judge my children the way they judge their own because they are different. They see the world in a much different way than I do. They hear things differently than I do. Things taste different for them than they do for me. And the world can easily overwhelm them in ways that I can see but cannot truly understand.
My children are everything to me, just as they are to most parents I know. We will do anything to help them make their way in this world. No one can tell me their limitations. I see their struggles every day, but I also see their triumphs. No one knows what the future holds. No one knows what they may discover tomorrow.
What we do know is that we are in the midst of a terrifiying epidemic. The incidence rate of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is rising every time it's measured. The official numbers are now 1 in 91 children with 4 of 5 cases of ASD affecting boys. These were closer to 1 in 2,000 children only two decades ago. And to be brutally honest, no one knows why. There are theories and time will tell which (if any) of these theories will be considered fact, but for now, we really don't understand what has caused such an alarming increase.
So, for the month of April, I invite you to join me to "LIGHT IT UP BLUE". Help me to spread the word that autism is a real and terrifying public health issue that needs to be understood. And those living with autism deserve a chance for an education and an opportunity to live their lives to their fullest potential. Please help share stories that you read or that you live yourselves. Please try to make just one person understand what autism really is and get them to understand that it's not something that will simply "go away."
If we can all convince one person, this will be a better world for my twins as well as many of our neighbors.