In order to highlight the growing needs for concern and awareness about autism, the Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month since the 1970’s.
The United States recognizes April as a special opportunity to educate the public about the autism community. Approximately one in 110 children is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric aids combined.
Statistics suggest the prevalence rate of autism is increasing 10-17 percent annually. There is no established explanation for this increase, although improved diagnosis and environmental influences are two reasons often considered. There is no simple answer and no one really knows but studies suggest boys are more likely than girls to develop autism.
With the growing numbers, now more than ever education is vital. The increased awareness will not only help families but also educators of autistic students.
For several years I have been on a committee that is involved in the planing of the state and regional trainings for the transition program “WorkAbility” I manage for Garden Grove Unified School District.
During this time, other WorkAbility sites throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties have asked for more trainings on autism as the findings reinforce this growing public health crisis.
Needless to say with the months of preparation and planning for a three day event from securing a site, to finding just the right speakers to cover topics that are needed such as transition and autism have been exhausting. With the event just a couple weeks away I along with my committee partners feel we can “almost” take a breath.
My journey in special education did not begin 20 years ago when I stepped into my first classroom in Garden Grove, it began 31 years ago with the birth of my first son.
I was a young mother of a happy healthy 9 pound bouncing baby boy who cried for three months straight, never slept and threw-up everything he ingested for eight long months.
If that wasn’t enough he also was hospitalized twice for pneumonia his first three months of life. I was exhausted, and as he grew his needs grew along with him.
I was certain he was going to be an only child, I just couldn’t take the chance of having another one “like him.” Oh, he was sweet, charming, funny and VERY energetic, he just had to be watched at all times. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him or there might be some kind of accident with him, the dog or a piece of furniture. And when his baby brother came along (yes, had to do it) then we were in trouble.
It would always begin innocently, “Mom watch” and as I looked up my now 3-year old had the fireplace shovel and batting the cowboy that he had placed on his 1-year old brothers’ head. Pow!
Oops, missed his head and I scooped up the baby and drove to the local hospital emergency room which had become my new home.
When my first-born son was diagnosed with a learning disorder all those years ago and the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), school psychologists, special education teachers entered our lives I still believed my boy was someone very special. He has proved not only to me but himself and all the people in his life, especially his 4 year-old daughter how educating ourselves is so very important so we may educate others.
“Autism Speaks,” it’s time to listen.