Imagine that you are walking down the street and you see a frustrated single mother holding her child’s hand, looking around in embarrassment as her child screams loudly in his or her attempts to express his or her self. That mother is aware of your stares and, in some cases, dirty looks. However, with a deep sigh and a silent pray to a God she is most likely losing faith in, she continues to hold her child close and wait patiently for the outburst to end.
We quickly walk by, thinking of the audacity of the child and the lack of discipline the mother has instilled in him or her. We flow past, confident in our superiority that we could do a better job; that our child would never behave in such a way.
We walk past in ignorance of the truth. We continue on our self-possessed path of righteousness in our unawareness that this mother is dealing with a special needs child. That the God she is losing faith is placed that child in her loving arms because we, on our high horses, do not contain the strength of will and the power of perseverance to raise a child such as this.
The problem of the child has a name — Autism. The latest advanced survey taken shows that in the 1990’s, the population increased by 13%. The total percentage of diagnosed autism cases during the same period was 150%.
What does this mean? Quite simply, Autism is a growing problem. It is growing faster than the population of the world. During the time of that survey, 1 in 166 births resulted in an autistic child.
In the last decade there were approximately 41,120,520 (Forty One Million, One Hundred Twenty Thousand, Five Hundred Twenty) births. By these figures, that means there were 274,137 (Two Hundred Seventy Four Thousand, One Hundred Thirty Seven) diagnosed cases of Autism.
This is why we must all do our part to increase awareness. The public needs to know that autism is now affecting 1 in 150 individuals and if they do not already know someone with autism, they soon will. Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and other governmental agencies, autism is growing at a startling rate of 10-17 percent per year.
These children are sick and endure pain on a daily basis. The sheer effort it takes just to get through an ordinary day for these children is more than any normal person will ever understand. The cost of caring for these children is astronomical. Currently 90 Billion Dollars is spent on caring for Autistic children. This does not include research and developments. In 10 years, that expenditure will be increased to 200 Billion Dollars a year.
In short, this is an epidemic. Public awareness of Autism is imperative. Do not think that because it does not affect you now, that it will not within the next 10 years. The general population knows very little about Autism and related disorders. Without public awareness, the research and funding necessary to discover new ways of treating autism will not happen. Why would anyone give their money to something they do not understand?
Autism is a bio-neurological disorder, not a mental illness, which affects the functioning of the brain. Some theories suggest that it may be caused by genetics, viral and/or chemical exposure. It is diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls.
Autism influences the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills and cognitive function. This includes:
· slowness in understanding messages
· problems of the sensory system (touch, taste, and smell)
· hearing and language disorders
· inappropriate social responses (screaming, unprovoked tantrums, laughing, crying, and resisting touch, cuddling, and eye contact)
· sleep disturbances
· Severe Forms: The children may injure themselves, constantly move various body parts, show an apparent insensitivity to pain and/or constantly isolate themselves from their parents and all others.
Autism knows no racial, ethnic, social boundaries, family income, lifestyle, or educational levels and can affect any family, and any child. Awareness needs to begin before you find yourself a parent of an autistic child. Disregarding the lack of funding for research and the high medical cost, there are many thousands of parents that suffer in silence every day, knowing that the dirty looks and airs of superiority only continues the ignorance and lack of help and understanding that they truly need.
Visit the following sites for more information:
The Autism Society
National Autism Association
Autism Every Day
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Copyright © Autism Speaks/NYCA, 2006.
A must see video giving public awareness to the pain and suffering of autistic children and the families that stand by them everyday.
Note from Writer: I implore you. If you do nothing else, watch this video.