On the 2nd of April the Empire State Building will be lit up with blue lights to mark the start of Autism awareness month.
I am a mother of two Autistic children, living in Rural NSW Australia. My son Tom is ten and he cannot talk, well it’s not that he can’t, he won’t. We know he can, we’ve often heard a word exclaimed in frustration, otherwise he communicates using pictures or a gestures and grunts. Tom is on the spectrum as severe. At times Tom can be very hard to live with. Our daughter Georgie is three and a half, and was only diagnosed a year ago. She is on the spectrum as moderate/mild. And just this past week we have had a third child provisionally diagnosed as Autistic.
But what is Autism? Autism is a neurobiological disorder that can last a lifetime. Autism inhibits a person’s ability to be able to interact, communicate and relate to those around them. People with Autism often need rigid routines to get through the day. They may display repetitive and obsessive behaviours or extreme emotions inappropriate to the moment. Autism has a spectrum of classifications and a child can be categorised from mild to severe. A child with Autism may not be able to talk, show fear of dangers, show eye contact with others and may have an apparent insensitivity to pain. Around 67 million children worldwide are affected by Autism, and that figure is rising.
Ten years ago when our son was diagnosed, there was very little in the way of early intervention and awareness of Autism. Our daughter has had access to a little more intervention than we were able to get for Tom in his early years, and it shows. Hence, the reason why I am writing this today. Georgie has been able to get some assistance, and that already has had considerable impact on her. The change has been massive and exciting, she is starting to talk and engage with us, we are hopeful that when it comes to school she will be able to attend in a mainstream class.
Georgie is an example of how well early intervention works and why it needs to happen. I look at the difference between our two children, as there sadly is, and wonder if it could this have been made better by more intervention. Research has shown that the answer to that question would be yes. Intervention in rural areas of Australia is seriously lacking, and children in regional areas are suffering for it. Personally we have had to travel great distances to gain services for our children. So why have I shared all this with you (dear reader) today?
Because this April is Autism Awareness month, and kids like mine need your help in raising awareness about Autism. The more people who are aware the more likely it is that more services will be drawn to those areas in need.
What can you help spread awareness and show support?
- Head to www.worldautismawarenessday.org or www.autismspectrum.org.au and find out what events are happening near you, attend and show your support.
- Get in touch with your local disabilities service and find out what’s going in your area for Autism Awareness month.
- You can also register your name with for Autism hour and pledge to raise awareness. This year Autism Hour starts at 9am on April 30. Please head to www.autismhour.com.au for details.
- Or if you’d like to do more you can host a social game of Pictionary in May to raise money and awareness for autism. Visit www.drawtism.com.au for more information.
- And if you are a parent, care-giver or grandparent of an Autistic child and would like to see more workshops about Autism held in your local area then you must express your interest at www.earlydays.net.au it is part of the government funded ‘Helping Children with Autism’ package, please register so that they know where parents of Autistic children are. With enough expressions of interest they will bring the workshops to your local area.
And don’t forget to wear blue on April 2nd – World Autism Day – to show your support and spread awareness about Autism.