Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Did you know that? (Rhetorical question, and since probably 90% of my two readers have kids on the spectrum very likely a silly question as well. Whatever.)
I tend to keep myself at arm's length (or better) from groups that seem to have mastered the art of "fundraising for autism by telling everyone how awful it is" or who tend to exclude people living successfully with autism from their advocacy activities. I'm not an advocate of focusing on the more difficult aspects of autism in order to garner financial support and while symbolic gestures are nice, they aren't as helpful as we all wish they could be. Trust me, if I thought festooning this blog with puzzle pieces and pink ribbons and equal signs could change the things in this world I think need changing, I'd do it in a heartbeat. You wouldn't be able to read my words through all the bling.
I posted a cute Meme that Autism with a side of fries put up on Facebook this morning. It read simply, "April is Autism Awareness Month. Or as I like to call it, every single day in this house."
Except that it isn't even that for me -- autism is such a constant part of our life that I don't even think of the word as it relates to us that often. Sometimes its a happy face thing, sometimes not so much. I see my son as a person, not as a diagnosis. The strategies for supporting him are modeled around his diagnosis, but the way I love him is modeled around him.
The public as a whole is far more aware of autism than ever before. That "1 in 88" statistic that came out last year was a rude awakening for all of us, but it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise. Autism is far more prevalent than we want to accept. Sure, I'd like to know why that is, we all would. As my son's parent I want to know more about how to create a world that he can live in fully than about how or why he was born the way he is.
I'm not trying to piss in anybody's Cheerios. A lot of very good people put a lot of effort in to the events and articles and graphics that mark World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month. I think I'm just tired and jaded. I'm tired of symbolic activism. Pink ribbons don't cure breast cancer, Red ribbons don't cure AIDS and blue avatars don't cure autism. They don't ensure my son is less challenged today than he was yesterday and they don't change his diagnosis. They didn't keep my friend from dying of cancer or my brother from presumably dying of heart disease. They won't prevent another person from getting autism or breast cancer or leukemia or AIDS. Symbols are the things we wear to tell others we are on their side, and that's a nice thing to do. Symbols are also things manufacturers put on things because they know it will make us more likely to buy them.
Symbols are NOT a substitute for writing letters or making phone calls to your legislators in support of marriage equality, or writing a check directly to help fund a study on autism or cancer or any number of important issues. There aren't enough symbols in the world for me to express how badly I want to just wrap my arms around every sick, tired, lost, hurting person and tell them I love them and I wish I knew how to make it better. Symbols are not a subsitute for being an active, involved parent for my son. So you won't see me "lighting it up blue" today, or any other day, unless I happen to do so by accident.
That doesn't mean I don't want to have research on the causes of autism or the best ways to treat autism in children and adults. I do. I'm just...tired of the hoopla that doesn't seem to change much of anything.
Or maybe just a curmudgeon.