I have started writing this post several times from different angles and keep on deleting it because this is such an important issue to our family that I wanted to serve it justice. It’s amazing how many things you take for granted until it happens to you, or someone you love. By the same token, strength and inspiration can come from adversity.
To me, there is no greater example of this than my Aunt Cristy’s resilience and stoic disposition in dealing with her daughter's battle with Autism. My aunt has endured countless trials without one complaint, something I don’t know I could do if I were in her shoes. At first glance you would never know that my little cousin
, is Autistic. She is a bright, funny, and very affectionate little girl. She loves Dora the Explorer and enjoys playing with her toys like any other child. Carolina
But the road to her improvement has been paved with many hurdles: tears, dozens of doctor’s appointments, and letdowns. It has been an emotional roller coaster that I hope few will ever have to face. Unfortunately, I know this is not the case. The statistics for Autism are astounding- 1 in every 150 children are Autistic. But what does it all mean? The American Heritage dictionary defines Autism as such: A pervasive developmental disorder characterized by severe deficits in social interaction and communication, by an extremely limited range of activities and interests, and often by the presence of repetitive, stereotyped behaviors.
I am not a parent yet, but the idea of having a child with a disorder fitting that description is heartbreaking. So what is a parent, family, or friend to when facing this condition? These are a few things I can think of
#1. Build awareness. Do research, read books, look up articles, do whatever it takes to become informed. There is no cure yet for Autism, but the more you know, the better prepared you will be when making important decisions such as seeking treatment, or modifying the child’s diet.
#2. Network. Networking is important because we don’t have all of the answers yet. Sharing insights with one another can mean a small victory in helping your child lead a more normal life. It’s the little victories that make it easier to get through each day. In addition to sharing ideas, networking allows you to build a support system with other people going through the same things. This brings me to my next point.
#3. Take each day at a time. Progress will not come over night, but as I mentioned earlier, the small victories are a big deal. Do not compare your child’s progress to other children’s progress. The only thing comparing will do is create a false reference point, as no case is the same, and neither is the rate at which a child advances.
#4. Get involved. This is especially important in the case of Autism because as I mentioned before, there is not a cure yet. Building awareness about autism can only lead to developments in the cure, or at the very least improvements in treatment. I look at my little cousin and our family and all I can hope for is for her to grow up and lead a normal life- For her to be able to socialize with people in her age group, and go out with her friends- For her to get married and live happily ever after -For her to develop her talents and pursue her dreams. These are all things that I believe can be attainable, not just for
, but for every one in 150 kids who have autism. Carolina