Autism awareness month is coming to an end for 2017. Each year I struggle a little with what I am supposed to do to represent awareness month. Most of my days of the year are spent working with children, adolescents, adults and their families who are affected by autism spectrum disorder. I facilitate several trainings a year related to autism, participate in resource fairs, attend meetings, participate on boards and in groups related to autism and write books, book chapters, and articles on the subject. I find that I am well integrated into awareness, education, and providing services every month of the year, not just April.
As I reflect this year, I am feeling a bit downhearted for the side of autism that is rarely addressed, talked about, or represented during awareness month or any month of the year. I have worked with countless children who are severely impaired regarding the manifestation of their autism disorder. These are the children who schools (neither public or private) can’t or won’t educate, professionals will not work with due to not wanting to or not feeling competent enough, and extended family members and friends cannot understand or feel comfortable around resulting in little to no respite care.
Every child on the spectrum faces real challenges but there is a sad reality I often see for those children who face a greater impairment; a reality where therapists, educators, organizations, friends and families are rejecting these children. I hear many reasons for this rejection – “He is not a good fit here,” “We are not equipped to handle her issues and behavior,” It is not safe for the other children here,” “This isn’t what he needs,” etc. I’m not saying that some of these reasons are not legitimate for certain situations, but legitimate or not, where then is the place? Where is the educator or the professional or the friend to help these children? So many parents are facing an unimaginable level of stress, anxiety, and isolation and so many of their children are experiencing the same.
I nor any one person can solve all these issues and make everything better for these children and families, but we can all strive to be more aware, more empathetic, more understanding, and in whatever way we are gifted, make better efforts to serve these children and their families.
Dr. Robert Jason Grant
Registered Play Therapist Supervisor
Certified Autism Specialist