That people with autism live on a spectrum was clear from recent conversations at our forums and book signings.
When Melissa and I ask people there about their contact with autism, we hear a diversity of experiences:
- My nephew with autism just finished college
- Our friend’s daughter with autism just got married
- Our grandson with autism wrote a book
- He’s very high functioning but socially awkward
- Nobody invites us to anything because he gets violent
For caregivers, the spectrum creates obvious problems. Therapies that were useful in one situation simply bounce off of another. Support networks are hard to build – yes, misery loves company but finding a common set of experiences and resources is not easy.
In our family, we are blessed that Joey is emotionally connected and affectionate. Many families of people with autism don’t have that and expend sacrificial love with little in return. It is hard for us to imagine their challenge, even though we might have many other common experiences.
Steve Silberman makes some important points as we wind up (did you know it was April?) Autism Awareness Month. So much science is about “root causes” when the daily struggle is about quality of life for people on the spectrum and their caregivers,
…the lion’s share of the money raised by star-studded “awareness” campaigns goes into researching potential genetic and environmental risk factors — not to improving the quality of life for the millions of autistic adults who are already here, struggling to get by. At the extreme end of the risks they face daily is bullying, abuse, and violence, even in their own homes…
Obviously, even a month of acceptance will not be enough to dramatically improve the lives of people on the spectrum. What could be done to make the world a more comfortable, respectful, and nurturing place for millions of autistic kids and adults — now, starting today?
There’s no one answer. But there are millions of potential answers in the hearts of many who care for people with autism and those who know and care about our families. Caring people are on a spectrum, too, from kindly neighbors and friends to the folks who form public agencies and organizations to medical and therapeutic professionals…
…to patient strangers who take the time to be kind in the face of confusing and even ugly situations.