Sunday, April 9, 2017

Autism Awareness Month

I remember, pre-Rainman, when autism awareness meant getting people to know the difference between artistic and autistic. That was even more problematical when both descriptions fit a particular individual, as was the case with both my sons. We, of the Autism Society, tirelessly went to talk to both college students and their professors, schooled aides that shouting at our kids was not the best choice, and dug our fingernails into our palms while getting the more intransigent principals to agree to the goals we needed in an IEP.

Granted, there are parents to whom IEP meetings are still accompanied by the rending of garments and the gnashing of teeth, but at least autism very rarely engenders a blank look anymore.

Sometimes I worry about the glamorization of autism. Teenyboppers fall for Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds and autism has become inextricably tied with savant skills. That is all well and good for individuals with autism doing nicely by exploiting their savant skills. I think I might even put one of my sons in that category, in a limited way. He doesn't look anything like a TV star and he wouldn't want to. He doesn't like drawing attention to himself. But how about all the individuals with autism who have no savant skills, or how about those for whom they make no difference because of the severity of their other disabilities? They make an occasional appearance on TV or the movies, but you don't see them much. That is a lesson from Rainman ignored. Yes Raymond could count cards beautifully but much of the rest of the world escaped him, even if he did decide that K-Mart sucked. When I saw the end of the movie, I imagined what would come next. Raymond would find that without an outside antenna, his portable TV wouldn't receive Judge Wapner in the Faraday cage of the train and he'd have a meltdown.

Some persons with autism live quite well on their own, needing no more services than the average human being. Some even live better. But many do not. Buildings can be bathed in blue light and stars play poker into the night, but most people are still woefully ignorant. They are well aware that autism exists these days, unless they live in a cave. But the everyday details of teaching someone to keep their voice down in a restaurant, or scraping feces off the wall, or kicking the ass of a money grubbing school district, those they don't know. Hollywood won't teach them, neither will t-shirts, bracelets, boots, or hats. It is up to those of us who deal with those details to tell the truth though tweets, posts, songs, and stories --- whatever we can do. Then there will truly be autism awareness.

You can see me and the autism books I've written at