Misplaced Awareness by Stuart Duncan • All About Autism Series 2011

This post is generously submitted for the 2011 All About Autism Series ~ by Stuart Duncan:

When I think about awareness, I think about cancer and AIDS. Awareness works extremely well for causes such as these but there are other times when I feel that awareness is either not enough, or misplaced entirely. There is a huge difference between being aware of something and knowing what something is.

The reason that awareness works so well for cancer and AIDS is that you learn how to prevent them, what to look for in knowing if you have them and in raising money to help cure them.

What you don’t need to know is the science behind it or how cancer and AIDS affects a person’s personality or social ability. You don’t need to know how to change your expectations of those people.

Awareness of Autism does help parents to recognize the signs in their children and it does help in raising donations for research and supportive resources. However, that’s all it does when really, we need so much more.

Most people have no idea that Autism actually encompasses many disorders, not just one. Most people have no idea how bad it can really be or that it’s a lifelong condition. Most people have no idea that it can affect motor control and body control just as much as their mind.

Quite often, when I talk about Autism with the average person, they either ask what it is or are afraid to ask for fear of looking uninformed or uncompassionate.

People don’t know that Autism affects everyone differently, they don’t know that there are adults with Autism still living with their parents.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this and this is why Autism Awareness remains as it is. You can’t force an education on people, certainly not those that have no interest in knowing what it is anyway.

It is for this reason that I propose that parents and those with Autism themselves, to take it upon themselves to speak up during Autism Awareness Month but rather than “Raise Awareness”, they should inspire “Autism Understanding and Acceptance”.

To do this, people must share their own stories, their own experiences. Only if every single person shares their personal story can everyone else see just how different and wide ranging everyone’s stories truly are.
Only then will people finally start to understand what Autism really is… a spectrum. Only then will people understand just how Autism can and does affect people and hopefully, with enough understanding… there will be acceptance.

This goes so much beyond awareness in that people will change once they accept people for who they are, rather than just be aware they have a disorder.

Teachers will help a child rather than reprimand them, an employer will extend flexibilities or alternatives to an employee that needs it, insurance agencies will be more inclined to help rather than hinder support… the list is endless.

If the voice of the people can out weight the voice of the media, then and only then will others begin to move beyond awareness… they will finally start to understand. And once they can start down that road, they become that much closer to acceptance.

People with Autism do not have cancer or AIDS. They don’t need for you to be aware of the disorder. They need you to understand and accept them for who they are.

“Raising an Autistic child from a father’s point of view. Here I share all of what it means to me to do everything to make sure my son can have the best life that he can, no matter what. My goal is simply to tell my story, what it’s like to raise a child with Autism. It’s successes, failures and struggles. You may not get the answers you’re looking for but at least you’ll see that you’re not alone. We all have to be the best parents we can be by finding our own way.” You can read more on his blog, Stuart Duncan, Autism from a father’s point of view.

What are your thoughts?

6 Responses to Misplaced Awareness by Stuart Duncan • All About Autism Series 2011

  1. I’m a bit too tired in the brain to decipher exactly what awareness is. However, I am doing my part to share stories, and others’ stories, and I am thankful for people like Stuart who help us all!

  2. Where is the ‘Share This’ button?! This needs to be read by more than the audience it is currently limited to. Beautiful written, as always, Stuart.

  3. As usual, Stuart puts things in a way that is easily understood by anyone who reads his work. I would say “Good job”, but really it’s so much more than that. Thanks for giving a lucid voice to autism, explaining calmly why awareness is not enough, and for respectfully citing ways to improve.

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