Until we recorded the Understanding Autism podcast episode, I was ignorant about autism. I knew that it affected boys more than girls, and that the movie Rain Man was about an adult with autism. There is a boy who goes to our church who I believe is autistic, and I have friends who have mentioned that they have an autistic child. That’s what I knew.
Today, one week after releasing the podcast, I am still ignorant about autism. How am I different than one week ago? Today I am aware of autism, on my way to being less ignorant. That’s a start.
The world we live in is filled with a variety of afflictions and suffering. Why should we care about autism? We should care because the number of children it affects, 1 in 68, is significant. It affects people we know well, in ways that we probably haven’t considered. For example…
- Annual costs associated with care for an autistic child are ~$60K
- Professional therapy, which should occur daily, is one component of caring for an autistic child. Families are expected to be “therapists” as well, in their “free time”.
- Autism can manifest in ways that are considered disruptive in public, forcing families with an autistic child to feel the need to isolate themselves. This one troubles me the most.
“If you’ve met one autistic child, you’ve met one autistic child.”
Let’s put 1 in 68 in perspective, with the understanding that the average American family has two children…
- Do you know 34 families (68/2)? One of them has an autistic child. Chances are you know more than 34 families.
- Within that immediate family, if it is an average family, three are affected directly by autism. That number doesn’t include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
- How many of your friends or family have had boys over the past ten years? Think about people from high school, college, work, etc. Autism affects 1 in 42 boys (4X more than girls). Take a look at your 500 friends in Facebook. If half of them have a family, that’s ~500 children (250 X 2 children). If half of those are boys, that’s 250 boys. Six of those boys have autism (250/42).
Autism isn’t a death sentence, in fact a large percentage (40%+) are considered above average intelligence and many famous historical figures (including Einstein and Mozart ) are assumed to have been on the autism spectrum. Despite intellectual ability, given the nature of the condition. some who suffer will never speak or may have unusual physical tics. The manifestations are broad. As Dr. James told us in the studio, “If you’ve met one autistic child, you’ve met one autistic child.”
Maybe you are a family affected by autism. If so, know this. At least one additional person (me), as of this week, is more aware of the challenges you face every day. I might not be able to impact your life directly, but I’ll commit to share what I’ve learned with my circle. Maybe from there a few more families get the support, encouragement and flexibility they need to feel as whole and connected as possible.