Today is "World Autism Awareness Day." The General Assembly of the United Nations designated April 2nd,2008 as the first World Autism Awareness Day with "the hope that in the future, improved research studies and technology, as well as increased awareness and compassion among members of society will help to improve our knowledge and understanding of and responsiveness to autism." Many communities are also celebrating the entire month as Autism Awareness Month. Easter Seals has an autism blog that is really interesting.
I have interviewed many parents and experts in the field as part of my research for the "Autism Epidemic" special that aired on WHOI in August 2007. There are so many signs and symptoms of autism and so many different aspects. Many parents have said to me, "no two autistic kids are the same." Some kids have very mild cases, others are so severe they need full time care their entire lives. There are so many more questions about autism than answers. Parents of children with the disorder often feel lost. I hope this designation will help these parents and help the rest of us better understand what needs to be done.
Autism One is hosting a three day conference this May. Jenny McCarthy is the keynote speaker. I was fortunate to be invited to attend. Local policy makers including mayors, state representatives and senators from Illinois (and most other states) have all been invited. I urge you to contact your local lawmakers and ask them to attend. The more people who understand autism, the better off we will all be. One in every 150 kids is now diagnosed with autism, one in every 94 boys. The chances are, you will know someone or your kids will go to school with someone with autism. This is no longer a topic for people who have a family member with autism.
UPDATE: The Autism Society of Mclean County held a book reading at Barnes and Noble in Bloomington, IL on Tuesday. The pictures are from the event. The little red head was telling me before I read how she has Aspergers and she loves her cat. She brought her mouse webkinz with her to the event. It just so happens I brought the book "All Cats have Aspergers Syndrome." Needless to say, I gave the book to Claire. Isn't it neat how things just seem to happen for a reason!
Thanks to David Warner for inviting me to read! The kids were so wonderful. What a great experience! Music Therapist Meryl Brown was there singing and dancing with the kids. She goes to your home and teaches kids on the autism spectrum how to open up. She said she has one child who was only doing ecolalia and is now having conversations and answering questions after about 8 months of therapy. If you live in the Bloomington area and are interested in hiring her email is MBrownMTBC [at] gmail [dot] com. Obviously use the appropriate version of email to send this. I just don't want her to get spam by posting the actual address on-line.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of autism from the words of parents and experts in the field: