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“Autistics are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.” -Paul Collins
April is Autism Awareness Month…and although the month is almost over, I still feel it is important to draw attention to this disorder and highlight just how it affects our local community today. Did you know that one in every 68 children is diagnosed with Autism? Did you also know that the “spectrum” includes various levels of the disorder – some more commonly known as Aspergers Syndrome? I’m sure you’ve heard the media debates over whether vaccines are to blame, the environment, our modern diet, etc. – but regardless of the cause, the effects of living life with Autism has an impact far beyond just a challenged educational experience. It affects every aspect of a person’s life – primarily, their relationships and inability to connect with others and process emotions. It is a disorder that leaves many feeling like they -or their classified loved ones -are defined by its’ imprisoning characteristics. During the month of April, local communities all over the country hold fundraisers and events to “raise awareness” about the disorder and donate money toAutismSpeaks.org – the most well-known organization that serves as an advocate for those who must live with this disorder. I could have just posted this earlier in the month, and listed what those events are – but to be honest, I feel that raising awareness is only the beginning. I wanted to reach out to you NOW – to help carry the message of this month into the everyday.
For individuals with Autism – or families with a diagnosed child/loved one, the disorder doesn’t end on April 30th. The month of “awareness” draws to a close, but their battle only continues – often, unnoticed. I believe that knowledge should inspire ACTION. What will you do to take the next step in this fight? How many lives could you/we as a community right here in Chester County change with active support for this disorder every month of the year?
Since Autism has only started to be identified and diagnosed as recent as in the past twenty years, many of the individuals first officially classified are now entering adulthood. While we offer differentiated instruction and learning support for individuals who need it within our schools, we then graduate and turn out into the world adults who still walk daily with the limitations of a disorder that now prevents them from working, independence, understanding people and the world around them, and hinders personal growth. Who supports, employs, and assists adults with Autism then? While we have the Devereux Foundation and Day School right here in the county – not everyone who is on the spectrum has access to resources like this. When you see someone who can’t make eye contact, doesn’t pick up on social cues, and tends to just be a bit “off” – what do you do? Most of us get immediately uncomfortable and try to remove ourselves from the situation as soon as possible. While that is understandable, (and of course we all must do what we need to to be safe), just consider that people with Autism often feel alone, misunderstood, and trapped. Autism is a sensory-integration disorder that prevents individuals from processing emotions and everyday encounters that come to them through their senses. They struggle to empathize and understand the things many of us take for granted- which leads to a very isolated existence.
Instead of letting Autism Awareness end when April runs out, let’s all try to work together to be better advocates for both the children and adults in our community who need continual support. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine how terrifying it must be to have assistance one minute, and then be expected to completely gain independence and self-sufficiency the next – without ever having been equipped for the job! At Triumph Tutoring, Inc. – when we work with a client on the Autism Spectrum, we focus on not just their academic performance – but also life skills, developing character and sense of belonging, and identifying how they fit into this beautiful, chaotic world. We genuinely strive to have each and every student reach their potential -and embrace the challenges set before them. No struggle is too great, and no lesson leaves you empty-handed. Together, let’s decide to promote a positive and happy future for those with Autism in our community. Let’s educate ourselves about the disorder, and use our own skills and gifts to freely give back to those who are in desperate need of capable advocates. Let’s keep the conversation going – in our schools, at our dinner tables, with our own children, and in our local businesses who can provide ways to give back, even when April ends.