By David Rooney, MNM
Monday, April 2nd, expect to see the Chicago cityscape awash in blue lights for World Autism Awareness Day. This cool effect promotes a message for acceptance and acts like a beacon for events throughout April. Families who live day-to-day with ASD often wonder why we need a day, week or month to raise awareness. Certainly people get plenty of reminders?
Like most anything that consumes us, our lives don’t necessarily translate well to others, especially when regarding social interactions. And frankly, we need as much compassion and understanding as possible to progress into the coming decades, as we work together to promote independence for our family members. I’m not addressing the professionals, schools and therapists here exactly but more the neighbors, employers and landlords. We need them to understand and accept those living with ASD too.
This awareness includes you and me. It doesn’t take much for us to drift from our mission. Communication works best if we listen as much as we spread the word. For instance, in our support communities how often do we welcome the outsider? Of course we remain vigilant to keep our family safe, but do we consider assistance from somebody who genuinely wants to help, or can help but they do not bring direct experience, working with ASD. We ask, how can they really understand? When we welcome somebody new into our support community, we raise awareness and can even change minds and lives.
This week is my first-year anniversary working with Options for College Success. I come from such an outsider’s background. A Masters with a nonprofit focus helps, but prior to that, my professional experiences draw from careers in the private sector, specifically in home financing and media. For starters, I know I can help find long term, supportive housing solutions for people living with ASD. The team here recognize those and other qualities and welcome me. And it starts with awareness. We need to spread the word and welcome people from all walks.
On a personal note, my Sister-in-law, Joni’s birthday falls on April 2nd. She passed away in 2015. My brother, Larry and his family support my niece, Megan who keeps us aware about ASD. At Joni’s Celebration of Life, I remember my nephew, Dann reading her posts about coping with her illness and the support, purpose and love Megan provides her entire family each day. She and her two Cousins, (my nephews) also inspire me to keep up the good work. Details like these require a discussion, far beyond what first impressions might give and result from an open awareness.
Reminders help too.