You’ve already heard that April is Autism Awareness month. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently…

Thanks to my affiliation with 5 Minutes for Special Needs I was asked to review a documentary called Loving Lampposts. It is a beautiful movie, and it is due out on DVD yesterday. You can read my extensive review here. The short version: please see this movie if you want to learn more about autism, and show it to others who need to learn more about autism. At the very least people will learn how complex and controversial this disorder is, and a small glimpse of what so many families are experiencing first hand.

I’ve been thinking about what I can do here and on my own blog to increase “awareness,” but I’ve realized that what I’m after is more… Awareness is defined as having knowledge gained by personal perception or through information. Synonyms include cognizant, conscious, sensible, awake, alert, watchful, and vigilant. Awareness is a starting point.

I thought I was pretty aware of autism after I met some now dear friends whose son is affected by autism. We spent time with them and watched their non-verbal son watch the same clip of video countless times, explore our vanity drawers to find all of the toothpaste, and strip down to his underwear (or less), flapping his hands and vocalizing to get attention or express frustration. I “knew” the “warning signs” when our daughter was born: no smiling, no babbling, rocking, flapping hands…we happily noted the presence or absence of these until…no words. Even at this stage we were assured she was just “a late bloomer” or later we were told she had a “language delay”. No one ever asked and we didn’t know to be concerned about the amount of time she spent spinning the wheels on her stroller, flipping light switches on and off, or lining up CD cases. No one asked and we didn’t know to be concerned about how hard it was to soothe her or how I had to teach her to feed herself and she still couldn’t drink from a cup without using a straw. It wasn’t until another parent of a child with autism saw her at preschool that we really became aware of autism and it’s many faces, it’s baffling variety of effects and it’s global impact on the development of a child.

If I was “aware” of autism before, now I am “awake and alert” to it – fully conscious and prepared to respond. I haven’t kept a record, but I doubt that a single hour goes by without me considering autism in some way…preparing to write about it, considering how to best support our daughter, reaching out to other families in crisis, silently evaluating children who I see struggling to interact with the world around them, reading, researching, and on it goes.

I do not expect the same intensity from those not personally impacted by autism, but there’s a lot of room in the middle ground. Resources like Loving Lampposts can help to close the gap. I hope we’ll gain a lot of ground this April, for everyone’s sake.

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