AUTISM AWARENESS

  
It is 4:00 am at Lake Martin as I recover from a back injury playing in the ferocious and competitive Father/Son Golf Tournament that Ralph Fleck has hosted for over 2 decades. Tommy Greer, Jon Greer, and Bob Burton are comfortably sleeping in our condo.

However, I am in a little pain that has awaken me. As I nurse my injuries for Day 2, my mind wonders upon a subject that I have never written about and is also dear to my heart.

For many years, I did not understand the term “autism”. It was not until my oldest son, Jason Jr (Jake) developed some symptoms of the condition at a young age that I quickly dove into the current research.

I may get criticized by some for “telling the community” that my son has high functioning autism (used to be called Asperger’s Syndrome). However, Jake is a special child, excels at many things that I do not, and our community needs to know a little more about our autistic members.

First, you cannot cure autism. An autistic child is who they are and we all accept it. However, you can help reduce the challenges that make having living with autism in a world designed for “normal” people so stressful. Consider ‘the 2 As’: Awareness and Acceptance.

Awareness
Autism is no longer a hidden disorder. You will find people with autism in your school, your supermarket, the local playground, the cinema and in your workplace. Autism does not necessarily effect intelligence but it is a sensory disability that can effect sight, sound, smells, touch, taste, balance and motor planning, attention and perception.

Acceptance
No matter where a person falls on the autistic spectrum, that person needs to be accepted by our families and our community. Getting a diagnosis of autism is a difficult enough journey without everyone telling you that your child will grow out of it. They are not naughty, we are not bad parents, and is not because they watch too much TV. It is a neurological condition and the sooner we all get on board, the easier it will be for folks to accept it and move on with getting quality help.

Speaking of help, I must put a “plug” in for a particular school system. My son goes to Carrollton Elementary School. I was shocked by the number of extremely well qualified therapists and teachers who had given so much of themselves to help Jake develop. When Shea and I met at the school for his yearly report, it was like being in a “war room” with each specialist providing their well-articulated input into Jake’s program. Wow!

I am certain that other school systems provide a high level of autism care as well. I am just telling you about my personal experience at Carrollton.

Additionally, autistic children do not “evolve” into something else. Yes, early intervention allows for the better outcomes, but autistic children will become autistic adults. Accept it and plan for it.

Autism was here for the last election and it will be here for the next one and the next one after that. Fortunately, Georgia has a governor and a west Georgia State Senator (Mike Dugan) who support taking action on autistic issues in our state.

“Autism Speaks joins with the Georgia autism community in cheering Governor Deal for his leadership in taking meaningful action with autism in Georgia,” said Lorri Unumb, Esq., Autism Speaks’ vice president for state government affairs.

I love my son just the way that God made him. He will have challenges in life. But, who doesn’t? He is part of me and I am part of him. That is God’s will for us.

With a little internet research, you may be surprised that some of the most famous minds and successful people in the world may have fallen somewhere along the Autism Spectrum.

A few examples are physicist Albert Einstein, actress Daryl Hannah, and film maker Staley Kubrick.