As I mentioned in my last post, April is Autism Awareness Month. I’m not sure how bad a disorder has to get to warrant a whole month of awareness, but the newest statistics reveal that 1 in 50 children is being diagnosed with autism. That’s pretty alarming. At this point, we need more than awareness: we need a plan. I’m not sure why this hasn’t become a national crisis in the eyes of the government. If medical costs are making the national debt increase, then hold on to your hat because these kids are EXPENSIVE. Additionally, I am distraught at the lack of a plan for this kids long-term as they become adults. What will happen when 2% of our adult population needs long-term care? For now, I will settle for awareness with the hopes that it will aid in provoking a solution from people who are more equipped than me.
Awareness is a pretty broad topic. I think that the public is pretty “aware” that there is a situation on our hands. I think that is happening purely by the fact that, nowadays, pretty much everyone knows someone who has autism. In fact, when I talk to friends and acquaintances, it is pretty common for them to identify more than one person in their family or circle of friends who has a child with autism. The problem is that most parents are either too ashamed or too overwhelmed to be able to explain exactly what they are dealing with. I, on the other hand, have been blessed with a lack of shame and a compulsion to share my story with anyone who will listen. As I have been talking with people and getting feedback on this blog, the one comment I keep getting is, “I had no idea how difficult your life was on a day-to-day basis.” I have to admit that this comment surprised me. I really thought that I was doing a good job explaining our life with Gray so that people understood what we go through. Now, I realize that I often glossed over the gory details in an effort to prevent people from being uncomfortable and to make my life seem more “normal.” I guess, in a social setting, it is hard to get that message across. I mean, when you are out to dinner with friends and people start sharing stories about their kids, it’s kind of a buzz-kill to chime in with, “My kid ran out the front door naked today and started running towards the 4-lane road that is a block away from our house!” So, while I may continue to spare my dinner companions alarming stories like that, I will write about it and speak about it and do my best to explain it in a way that people can understand. If we want the public and lawmakers to be sympathetic and take action on our behalf, we must paint a detailed and accurate picture of the struggle that our children experience.
I also want people to know about autism service dogs and the amazing gifts they can give a family like ours. If someone reads my blog and decides that their family could benefit the way ours has, then I will be beyond thrilled. Last year, I went to a lecture where a man who is visually impaired described his experience with his service dog. He spoke about receiving his dog when he was in college and remembered the first time he walked across the campus without fear of being hit in the face by a branch or being caught off guard by a traffic light. He spoke about the incredible freedom his dog gave him to explore the world without being so vulnerable. I remember being moved by his story. I had no idea that Gray’s story would be so similar. I can honestly say that Hope is a guide for Gray that lets him explore his world while keeping him safe. In addition, she is an anchor that keeps Gray secure in knowing where he is supposed to be.
So, in the spirit of raising awareness, a radio station in Seattle asked ASDA if Kati could speak about their program and include a parent of a child with a service dog. Guess who got to make a radio debut???