This week we begin Autism Awareness Month. Two weeks ago, the CDC announced that 1 in 50 American children is diagnosed with Autism. A staggering increase from 1 in 500, when my own son was diagnosed 16 years ago, and from 1 in 110 when I made the feature film, Fly Away, two and a half years ago.
While doctors and scientists probe genetics and environment to answer WHY, those of us in the trenches ask HOW?
HOW do we, day after day, help our sons and daughters get through each day? How do we find services, schools and funds so they can learn, grow, make friends? How do we muster the support WE need, after we've been up all night with their sleep distress, interpreted their language to others, and their emotions to themselves? When we've calmed their tantrums, incurred bruises on the outside and the inside, fought with administrators for our slice of a pie already slivered into too many portions, by an epidemic of need?
And, crucially, how do we help them become adults, to live independently, with self esteem and purpose, in safety and support? They won't stay children forever, but their Autism will be with them forever. But we, their loving parents, won't be.
HOW can we guarantee that today's 1 in 50 will have a secure tomorrow? By engaging larger society to join our kids, our families, and our cause. But HOW? By sharing our stories -- the truth about on-the-ground-in-the-trenches life with our kids -- so it might grow other people's hearts to embrace them. To make a place for them in their schools, their businesses, their communities. Our fiction feature, Fly Away, shows, from the inside out, what it's like to confront your child's adult future, and realize that you can't go it alone. This April, Autism Awareness month, let's share our story by sharing this film.
Walk in our shoes, and you walk with us. And we have a long road ahead.
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Follow Janet Grillo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/flyawaymovie