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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Why I Will NOT Be Lighting It Up Blue For Autism Speaks...

According to several sources, I've been told that April is "National Autism Awareness Month".  To be honest, I had no clue that there was even a month devoted to this.  I knew that October was "Breast Cancer Awareness Month", and I believe that June is "National Pride Month"...but this was something new to me.

And I couldn't be happier that such a month exists.  I'll explain why a little bit later.

I only wish I had known that April 2 is the official day for "Autism Awareness" - otherwise I would have done it a couple of days ago.  But that being said, I think considering that National Autism Awareness Month lasts until April 30, I still have time to talk about it here.

Certainly, I've seen lots of people posting little blurbs about Autism Awareness month.  They are posting personal stories of what their lives are like raising children who have autism, or people sharing stories of what it feels like to be autistic, which is fantastic to see.  Some of them post memes and status updates to help raise awareness of autism, which is also cool to see. 

Then there's the temporary Facebook frame portraits that I see people using as well.  You know the ones I mean, don't you?  They allow you to download a frame onto your Facebook profile picture for a few days, a month, or even permanently if you so choose.  Believe me, I've had fun with this feature myself.  I have so far used a 2016 Rio Olympics frame, a Super Mario frame, and a Bones frame to commemorate the finale of the show that aired on March 28. 

But one frame you won't see me use is the one that urges people to turn their profile blue in the name of "Autism Speaks" - a charitable organization that was founded twelve years ago by the grandparents of an autistic child.  You can recognize the logo by the blue puzzle piece above the name. 

And the reason why I won't use this frame is because I don't particularly believe in the values that "Autism Speaks" holds true.

I realize that some might be looking at me with daggers in their eyes, but allow me to explain my stance.  If at the end of this, you still support this organization, then feel free to do so.  I won't stand in your way.  But I do implore you to understand why I feel this way.

I suppose it stems from this letter that was posted on the Autism Speaks website by one of the co-founders.  To read it, click
HERE.  Go ahead and read it.  I can wait.  I'm semi-patient.

Now, I partially get what she is trying to say here to a degree.  I can imagine that depending on where a child falls on the autism spectrum, it can definitely be a challenge.  However, almost all of my friends who have autistic children wouldn't trade that experience for the world.  They just want what is best for their child.

However, my nods of approval come to a screeching halt when she only seems to focus on the hardships of those who happen to be raising autistic children. 

Not once does she even show any sort of compassion for those who happen to be on the spectrum in the first place. 

It almost seems that she is grouping everyone who has autism into the same category, which is a complete mistake.  Sure, there are some extreme cases of autism where the child is in constant need of assistance.  But there are also so many people who are high-functioning autistic people, who might have a few quirks but are very capable of becoming proactive members of society.

And honestly, I think in order to ensure that children with autism have a chance to make a difference in the world, I think more needs to be done to help them understand that they do have a purpose in this world and that they should NEVER be seen as a burden to anybody.  Autistic people are human beings and they deserve to have the chance to be loved, to be respected, to have the chance to work, to have the chance to do all the things that everyone else in the world can do. 

They are not broken individuals.  Rather they absorb and process information differently from other people.  They might not always understand social cues that many of us take for granted, but they can also possess incredible intelligence.  They may possess super sensitivity to loud noises and can somehow be emotionally sensitive to other people.  They might have a better time communicating to a person using a computer or a pad of paper rather than talking to someone face to face. 

Believe me.  Most of the things I've described in the previous paragraph fit me to a T.  And, to be honest with you, I feel as though I'm somewhere on the autism spectrum.  I've never been formally tested - and let's face it - I couldn't afford to be tested even if I really wanted to find the truth.  But if I could hazard a guess, I would say that I might have Asperger's Syndrome - ironically, it'd be within the blue section of the above graph.  I guess I could say I'm a high-functioning autistic person.  At least I believe that I could be. 

But here's the thing.  I don't necessarily see myself as being all that different from anybody else.  I can't speak for anyone else who is autistic, but I can say that I am a person who is trying to make sense of this planet.  I want to be able to walk down the street and not have to worry about people pointing out my quirks.  I want to be able to get through a shift at work without people talking down to me as if I am seven years old.  I want to be able to build strong friendships without people looking at me as if I am a space alien. 

Basically, I want to be treated the same way that anybody else is treated.  I don't want to be talked down to.  I don't want to feel as if I am broken and need to be fixed.  I don't want to feel as though I am sick or diseased.  I don't see it as such.  I don't want people thinking that it is contagious.  Trust me, it's not.  I don't want people telling me that you won't vaccinate your child because of the fear that they will develop autism.  Personally, I'd rather have an autistic child that has a happy outlook on life than a child who dies of smallpox at the age of four.

Yes, autistic children have challenges that are difficult, but with proper guidance, compassion, and acceptance, I believe that they can find success.  The last thing that I want as someone who suspects that he has a place somewhere on the spectrum is to be told that I am a burden on someone else, and that I will need help for the rest of my life to make it in this world.  I don't want an organization telling me that this is the case.

Therefore, I cannot support Autism Speaks.

However, I can support the following groups and organizations which not only provide support to families of autistic people, but helps the children realize their full potential and treats them with the dignity and compassion that everybody deserves.


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