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April 29, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

MERIDIAN — April is Autism

Awareness Month

    By now everyone has heard the news. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has announced the striking number…1 in 88 is now diagnosed with autism. Let us as a society get a background on this number. Twenty years ago the number was 1 in 10,000. It is obvious with these numbers that we cannot say any longer; “Oh, diagnostics have improved.” This simply is not true. Surely it added to the number but not of this proportion.  

    Every place I go now I meet people on the spectrum. I see them in Wal-Mart, doctors' offices and playgrounds.  To help autism awareness we need to understand what autism is. Unfortunately, “Rain Man” comes to most of our minds when we hear autism. That’s what I thought, too. But even with all of their similarities they are individuals each being affected different than another.

    First of all people with an autism spectrum disorder are people and need to be treated with dignity and respect as all that are created in God’s image deserve.  Our public needs to be informed that autism looms in every aspect of that person’s life and the loved ones that surround them.  

    People with autism are greatly affected with sensory issues, motor planning, social participation, language barriers, and a host of medical problems.  Unexpected noises, bright lights, light touch, pain or basic needs that cannot be expressed comes out in what appears to be a tantrum but what parents of an autistic child calls a meltdown.  

    We need to be aware of this part of our population as now there are over 1 million people in the United States alone diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).  Under the umbrella of this spectrum are our friends with Asperger’s. Asperger’s Syndrome is autism and needs to be recognized as such.  We need our teachers in our schools to attend the conferences and the training seminars that are available. We need young people going into the field of occupational therapy, speech therapy and behavioral therapy. We need for our churches to send volunteers to learn how to deal with these beautiful, interesting, but sometimes hard to control individuals. We need to pray for the families, who much of the time, become isolated because we are a social people.  With a good friend of mine, I attended a conference by Joni and Friends on how to include people with disabilities in our churches. It was amazing. Emily Colson was the keynote speaker. Many of us are familiar with her father Chuck Colson. Her 21 year old son Max has autism.  She has written a book about him entitled Dancing with Max; a very informative publication on living with autism. The most poignant thing I received from this conference came from First Corinthians 12 that describes the body.             Whether a disability of autism, Down Syndrome, a person in a wheelchair or many others, part of our body is missing when we fail to find a way to reach out with understanding and compassionate love to our families that live with disabilities.

    I would like to end on this note. My son Daniel is five years old. He is bright, loving and tender-hearted. He loves his family, letters, numbers and wrestling with his Dad. My son Daniel has autism. Please, let’s be aware.

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