When I think about autism awareness, two things come to mind. One is that I am pleased that autism awareness has increased significantly. In fact there are times when I feel guilty that there is so much emphasis on autism and not enough on other things such as Down Syndrome. Of course the answer is to raise awareness in every area. As I talk to people in churches and other contexts, there are more people who have some idea about autism. There is plenty of work yet to do, but I’m thankful that things are getting better.
Having said that, I come at this not just as an observer but as an autism parent. In my discussions with other parents I have discovered a frustration with just spreading awareness. Awareness is nice but when will people move beyond?
When will people with autism be accepted and respected? When will people with autism be included? When will communities (including churches) see the real needs of families who are dealing with autism?
Reality is that many families who are dealing with autism are in crisis situations. I personally went an entire year with an average three hours of sleep per night. We have had our home destroyed and our other children bloodied. We have had to watch our children with autism completely overcome with frustration because they could not communicate their needs or feelings.
So please be aware. But also find a family to invest in. Provide respite for the family. Take the non-autistic siblings out for a fun time. Go and be present with the family and show love to every member. Even the smallest things can make a difference.