It's that time of year again.
If you have never read my blog before, let me introduce you to J Man.
Yep, that's him. The first picture is an older one from a few years ago, with his uncle Bobby. He adores my brother. The second is one of his quiet moments here at home. J is now twenty years old and he has severe autism. He is not verbal although he is almost never quiet. He is loud, loving, and happy on most occasions. The happier he is, the louder he gets sometimes. If, at the grocery store, you hear a loud shriek and an infectious giggle, it could be J, letting everyone at the store know that he has arrived. If you see a twenty year old sitting in the aisle looking bored or even lying down, he's not staging a protest of anything but standing. He does not like to stand and wait around while mom and dad hem and haw over what to choose.
Today I'm thankful to be his mother. (Well, I'm thankful to be his mother every day, even the ones that break my heart, but hopefully you know what I mean). I'm thankful for all the mothers and fathers who are in the trenches day after day, working with their kids, loving them, caring for them, and I'm thankful for the ones who end up making the most painful decision ever : to place their darling child in a school or institution because it's no longer wise to keep the child at home. It's not a decision made lightly and it's done with a lot of swinging pendulum emotions, I imagine. We haven't come to a decision like that yet, but we've seen it on the horizon of our journey a few times.
I'm also thankful today for Autism Speaks and all of the businesses and families and individuals who who participate in Light It UP Blue and promote autism awareness. It's becoming more and more prevalent, with current stats at 1 child in 88 being diagnosed with autism, 1 in 54 for boys. Some put the current stats as 1 in 50 children being diagnosed on the spectrum. Whether because the numbers are growing due to whatever is causing it (I have my own ideas and there seems to be myriad theories out there) or as some would like to suggest, they're simply better at diagnosing it, those numbers are heading in the wrong direction.
So what is autism? (Lifted straight from Autism Speaks: What is Autism)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. With the May 2013 publication of the new DSM-5 diagnostic manual, these autism subtypes will be merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD.ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.
Autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development. However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between 2 and 3 years of age. Autism Speaks continues to fund research on effective methods for earlier diagnosis, as early intervention with proven behavioral therapies can improve outcomes. Increasing autism awareness is a key aspect of this work and one in which our families and volunteers play an invaluable role. Learn more …
I tend to say "kids with autism" a lot when discussing it, but the "kids" that people see and tend to accept behaviors of once they know it's autism, grow up to be adults with autism. Mine is one of them. Yes, at times you will see a 20 year old in the throes of a full on melt down. Or you will see him happily waving his arms and singing in his own language. No, he's not on drugs other than medicines prescribed for his seizure disorder. No, he's not drunk or insane. He's either happy or upset or in some cases, having a type of seizure. If you can help, by all means do. If you can't, and simply are judging or in the way when something happens, please move along. Children and adults with autism are not zoo animals to be stared at, nor should they all be "locked up away from society so we will be safe" as one lady put it after a recent shooter was said to be on the autism spectrum.
Learn about autism. Ask questions. Wear blue today in honor of our kids and maybe Light it up Blue with the rest of us. Have a blue light on your porch or in your window. Say a prayer for the kids themselves and the parents and dedicated doctors, therapists and caregivers who work with them. And please, teach others.
This post is share with Heavenly Homemakers for Gratituesday.
Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers! You'll find many other bloggers that you may enjoy as well. Feel free to add your own post there or tell me in the comments here what you are thankful for. I always enjoy hearing from you..