Autism Month

Autism Month has now passed, but for those of us who are parents of a person with autism, every month is autism month, every day is autism day, every hour is autism hour. That is why when April first became autism month, I wondered what good that would do. What could we accomplish?

One thing that is accomplished during autism month is greater media coverage of the condition. I remember when I searched for information about autism and could find nothing. I remember the isolation and confusion that caused. I could never have predicted how things would change.

During autism month there is much media coverage about treatments, services and theories. There are many stories about families with someone who has autism. There are still more questions than answers, but at least now we have more conversation and awareness. Now, we have many people on the higher end of the spectrum who can make their thoughts and feelings known. Thank goodness, they have been able to join the autism conversation.

As part of the media coverage, I have seen documentaries about services to people with autism, true stories about experiences of families and many success stories. PJ and in were included in a documentary titled “Screaming In Silence: Autism In the Black Community.” It has not been released yet and I hope that you get a chance to see it when it is finished.  I will let you know.

The TV show “What Would You Do?” features hidden camera  scenarios that role play everyday problem situations.  The host, John Quinones, has actors portraying   negative activity in public of abuse, discrimination or illegal activity and video tapes the reactions of people who witness  the behavior. He asks us the audience, “What Would You Do?” if you saw the misbehavior. Would you step in and help?

During autism month, the show featured an actor portraying the behavior that a person with autism might show in a restaurant. The actor would not sit down, but roamed around the restaurant, even taking food from patrons’ plates. (What PJ used to do before I discovered drive through). Quinones taped the customers’ reactions to the boy’s behavior.

Some of the comments were, ‘he’s out of control” and “you should be better parents”. (I used to get “you should keep that child at home”) along with the other comments.  Someone came to the boy’s defense saying, “there’s something wrong with him, you should understand”.  A person who was upset by the boy’s behavior did get up and leave the restaurant, but for the most part the patrons were calm and kind and did not let the behavior disturb them.

Quinones stated that there is a growing  awareness of people with autism. I guess that with the increase in the diagnosis comes an increase of  public  sensitivity to our children.  Taking PJ on any public outing was always an ordeal because of the comments and stares. I would go home depressed and upset and vow to keep him at home, which is an impossibility.  I hope you parents have it better now.  If autism month has helped with public sensitivity to our children’s behavior, I am grateful.

PJ’s behavior has greatly improved.  I can take him out in public without the fear of other people’s reactions to him, partly because autism awareness has increased.  He is big and intimidating looking , so a sudden or unpredictable move can startle  people and I understand this. He tries very hard to have self control. I read a statement that applies to our situation with our children: “To exercise personal restraint requires more energy than it does to follow every impulse.” I am proud of the restraint that PJ uses. He tries to be a pleasant, co-operative young man and I know that it is not always easy for him.

Until next time: May you have Peace, Love and Prosperity in your life.

Claudreen Jackson


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