Sunday, October 12, 2008
Educating the community on Autism
Today was the Walk Now for Autism in Forest Park. The event had over 20,000 people participating. It was great to see the array of colored shirts that represented the walking teams, which were dedicated to someone affected by Autism. I was struck with 2 feelings simultaneously. First I thought wow, such a great turnout, then doing some calculating how many affected individuals were represented in one group today. So many people with stories of hope... progress... frustration.. fear... and PRIDE.
Walking for Tony today, I was filled with a bubble of gratitude for the professionals researching this disorder and families willing to try anything, in hopes that it may flip the switch. I remember the trips to the Spitz Clinic in Media, PA where we met with top names in the field back in the 80's. Tony's brain surgery. Days filled with patterning exercises that my parents & I did with him throughout each day. The glimmer in Tony's eye when he remembers the good stuff. The moments that I shared with Tony that he spoke to me, ever so briefly, and the moment vanished.
Then,my thoughts drifted to the people in my life who are affected as well. Their children are significantly younger than Tony. How lucky they are (in relation to the under educated 70's era) to have the resources & support of professional agencies. Legislatively, we still have a ways to go with the financial & medical support that is needed. After the walk, I met up with the local radio station & thanked them for spotlighting & sponsoring the event and giving autism a voice in the community. This was not a heavily covered media event but the station did a nice job of discussing issues throughout the week & the morning show team stayed through the event. I was able to share Tony's story and describe growing older & the continued challenges. It wasn't a sad story to tell, because Tony has benefited so much from caring staff members, local community members who allow him to enjoy life (like Doc's Harley's in Kirkwood) and a family (including the crazy pup who does her part to keep him in line) that pulled together to make it work.