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Why You Shouldn’t Participate In Autism Awareness Month


April 8, 2013

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April is National Autism Awareness Month and on April 2nd was World Autism Day. Yet, why is that a blog from Psychology Today  titled”I’m Not Participating in Autism Awareness Month” gets it right?

The title would have benefited if the title had added and”neither should you.”

If there is a story about an individual with Autism it’s almost always portrayed in a negative context in the mainstream media. For example, a priest banning a 13-year old from church, a teenager who stole a car and then flew across the United States or a two-year old getting kicked off a flight.

What’s often ignored is that it’s a spectrum disorder. So, when the media does a story on a person with Autism it’s the stereotype of someone who is low-functioning.

According to Bright Tots these characteristics include:

  • Impulsive
  • Sensitivity to sound, smell, touch, pain and visual stimulants
  • Poorly coordinated when walking
  • Do not seek physical comfort
  • Avoidance or use of eye contact in odd ways
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Self-injurious behavior

Still even when a person is high-functioning for example Paul McNally who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Writers will make claims such as this one in regards to the diagnosis,”a two-word nightmare.” Also, he went on to say “in all likelihood, their child will not play sports, never wear a uniform bearing their school’s colors or name, never have the opportunity to make a mom cry on Parent’s Day.”

Asperger’s symptoms are:

  • Showing an intense interest in one or two specific narrow subjects
  • Having a hard time “reading” other people or understanding humor
  • Moving clumsily, with poor coordination
  • Appearing to not understand, empathize with or be sensitive to others’ feelings
  • Speaking in a voice that is monotonous, rigid or unusually fast

Jason McElwain a senior in high school in 2006 proved that theory wrong when he scored 20 points in a three-minute span. He was the varsity team’s manager throughout the season and got the chance to play thanks to his coach.

In 2012, in one of the leading social stories on autism, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that one in 88 children now are identified on the Autism spectrum.

Dr. Isabel Rapin professor of Pediatric and Neurology at Albert Einstein College said “I think it has to do with changing diagnostic criteria, including mine over the years which have made me label many more children as being on the autism spectrum than say 10-20 years ago. Not only physicians, but parents, teachers, therapists and the public are much more aware of the symptoms of autism, and I suspect some may apply the diagnosis based on one symptom, which is inadequate.”

That is also echoed by Dr. Lisa Schulman who stated “over the years, children with autistic disorder remain a relatively small group in our center. It is the group of children with milder social-communicative impairment and without a large array of mannerisms and atypical interests consistent with an ASD diagnosis that has increased significantly.”

Interestingly enough there’s another disorder that shares similarities of Asperger’s, yet doesn’t get any attention as there’s no awareness month, week or even day, nor is it on the Autism spectrum. It’s known as NLD for short, which stands for Non-Verbal Learning Disorder.

The University of Michigan has the list of traits which are:

  • Physically awkward; poor coordination
  • Concrete thinking; taking things very literally
  • Trouble with nonverbal communication, like body language, facial expression and tone of voice
  • Difficulty with math, especially word problems
  • Attention to detail, but misses the big picture
  • Trouble adjusting to changes

How come those who suffer from NLD don’t get recognized for their achievements and those who have Asperger’s do?

Another reason to why it’s best to not participate is because of the parents who are placing blame or looking for a cure.  At one point there was a study done by Andrew Wakefield that linked the MeaslesMumps and Rubella vaccine to Autism. Turned out it was an elaborate fraud. Still there are some who believe that is the case and refuse to vaccinate.

Those looking for a cure is the best reason not to get involved as Autism is not a disease. Children who develop “normally” at times struggle in certain subjects in school and will require tutoring. A child with Asperger’s instead will need help developing fine motor skills and social skills.

In order to get involved during Autism Awareness Month it’s time for a different portrayal of those with Autism, though it doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon.

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0 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Participate In Autism Awareness Month

  1. It seems the reasons you list to NOT get involved, such as misinformation or misportrayal of autism and persons on the spectrum, is the exact reason to involve yourself in autism awareness efforts. Don’t wait for the change to happen, be the change.

    I believe there is opposition to *one group’s* definition of autism, and their attempt to “own” autism and autism awareness and to speak for all those impacted. Which is fine, I don’t fund them or agree with them either. But there’s no denying that the public, and the media, pay attention to autism during the month of April, so why not take advantage of that interest, and publicize what you want known? Personally, I’ve been tweeting an autism fact every day this month, and I wear a pin that says “Ask me about Autism”. I want to enlighten. I want to educate. I want to create awareness. I do not paint myself blue to do so. I speak, I write, I converse. And hopefully I create awareness, which now will include info on NLD.

    Don’t throw away the opportunity to create awareness simply you don’t agree with how one person, or one group, expresses themselves. That’s counterproductive. Instead, take ownership of autism awareness using your own knowledge and experiences. Make autism awarenss month yours.

  2. Dona,

    I appreciate your reply.

    Though I couldn’t disagree more. It’s everyone involved that continues to allow for the negative atmosphere that is centered around Autism.

    Recently on Facebook there’s a comic strip that said exactly what is wrong with the education system. On the cartoon there’s a monkey, penguin, elephant, a fish in a fishbowl, seal and a dog on one side and then there’s a test administrator.

    A quote by Albert Einstein says “everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believe that it is stupid.”

    It’s why I will not participate in Autism Awareness and I’m sorry the Autism Speaks group in my opinion is a joke. Actually ventured to it for the first time today.The site is horrible if the first link on the site is basically asking for money. There’s nothing there about stories of success with individuals who have been diagnosed with Autism,

    I got applaud the comment on the site from 101 who said four months ago “As someone with Autism I find it offensive that you say that you are researching for a cure. Autism is not a disease, we do not need to be cured. We just think and compute things differently then other people, and in history there is a sound belief that a lot of the big changes that have occurred were due to an idea put forth by some one with Autism because they were the only one thinking differently then everyone else. If you try to erase Autism, which by the way is not a new thing, you will only cause society to become stagnant. If you really want to be the people that ‘speak’ for those who have Autism try actually having some people who have it on your board of directors, otherwise you have no idea what it is like.”

    How is it really speaking for those who have Autism? The answer it doesn’t. It contributes to the problem and in fact is pretty much a money grubbing organization that takes advantage of people.

    Want to increase awareness start telling the great stories instead of making those who have it, feel stupid because they learn differently!

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