April 1, 2008

National Autism Day

Tomorrow, April 2, is the first ever National Autism Day. Autism is definitely receiving more attention in the media these days, but unlike breast cancer, AIDS, and heart health, there is still no understanding of the cause of autism. And the number of children and families affected continue to rise. It is estimated that 25,000 children in the US will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum this year, more than all other childhood diseases combined. 1 in 150 children and 1 in 94 boys are affected by this disorder. And there is no cure, no medicine to take, and, in fact, no "test" you can take to determine if your child has autism. This is why awareness is key!

Just this week I have heard from two mothers who are struggling with a fresh diagnosis of autism for their sons. So what can you do in honor of Will and the many other children who have autism? Become aware! 

Become aware of the signs of autism because if you are a parent, early detection and intervention is key. I can guarantee that you or someone you know will be affected by this disorder. 

Become aware of how autism affects families. Did you know that 80% of marriages involving an autistic child dissolve?  Many parents of autistic children are walking a lonely path and feel as if people don't understand or value their children. 

Become aware of what autism is. Autism affects three main areas of a child's brain (in differing severity depending on the child): communication ability, fixations or obsessive/repetitive type behaviors, and social skills.

Become aware of the people around you who are struggling through the diagnosis, through the day to day care of a child with autism, and through the transition of a child with autism into adulthood (when schools are no longer providing services). Simply ask questions about their lives and LISTEN!

Tomorrow, I will post about our story specifically and updates on Will. If you'd like more info on autism, CNN is doing all day coverage tomorrow and their website (cnn.com) has some excellent articles. You can also check out Autism Speaks for some great info.