Today is World Autism Awareness Day, a day when autism organizations raise awareness of people on the autism spectrum with the hope that more people will be aware every day. For a few months last fall, New Yorkers were.
In trying to find the best in health care and education for Marty, I have met hundreds of African-American boys and girls like him -- kids who are misunderstood, marginalized and written off as unproductive and incapable of learning. These disparities are nothing new.
For many years, we didn't travel or attend gatherings. It was too exhausting for Jack. He had to process new environments, decipher voices talking at the same time, recognize faces, absorb emotions and respond to unexpected sounds, lights and movements. It cost him too much energy.
My heart swelled and broke simultaneously. I wanted to help him and had to resist approaching the ringleader to ask if my boy could play too. Even though he is only five and -- hopefully -- far from the years that my mere existence will utterly embarrass him, I knew he didn't want me to interfere.
When people figure that Max has autism because he looks or acts a certain way, or when people think that kids with autism are like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, they presume to know what our children are like -- which does our kids a major disservice.
Never giving up and being open to the possibilities that come our way and Jeremy's way is how we live. We look for ways to connect and to give back. We are grateful to our community and society's increasing acceptance and understanding of those who are differently-abled.
Just two decades ago, autism was a mysterious and somewhat obscure disorder, commonly associated with the movie Rain Man and savantism. It affected an estimated 1 in 5,000 children. How times have changed.
We can either continue to collectively stand on the sidelines and debate what is causing autism and if it is an epidemic or we can get on the field and start addressing the real problem -- a generation of children with autism.