The Degrees of Awareness

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When most of what you do revolves around autism, you come to believe that everyone shares some kind of base level of understanding. At one-in-50, most everyone today at least knows somebody who cares for someone on the spectrum or is on the spectrum themselves.

That’s why I came away from Five Guys the other day with more guilt than the off-my-diet meal I brought home called for. I was wearing a polo shirt with The Autism Channel logo on it, and the counter clerk saw it, and started talking autism. Suddenly, I was giving advice to the mother of a 6-year-old boy who is on-the-spectrum and appears to have had no intervention at all.

The saddest are those who know, and do nothing.

“He’s getting very difficult to handle. You wouldn’t believe it.” Of course, I did believe it. She asked me what she should do, and I silently wished I had an easy answer; a rapid-response team that would parachute into her life and do all the work she should have been doing that somehow would retroactively bring the intervention that is proving to have such great effects when it is early.

The exchange brought home to me how many of these children are falling through the cracks every day. I told her about the local CARD program at FAU and told her to call. I suggested that the local chapter of The Autism Society would be able to point her to places she might be able to seek help. She may take my advice, and she may continue to do nothing.

There are many kinds of awareness. We tend to focus on the degrees of awareness that involve society-at-large not understanding autism or the alarming rate at which the diagnoses numbers are increasing; or the legislators who aren’t sufficiently motivated to address the public policy concerns; or the undiagnosed. When these groups do nothing, it is frustrating. But there are a thousand things vying for their attention.

The saddest are those who know, and do nothing. There are a myriad of reasons; I’m sure the counter clerk barely makes it financially, and Florida’s social services are not known for actively seeking new clients. But we all will pay a price for this treatment deferred, first the schools, and then our support services for the disabled.

None will pay so dear a price as her son, whose future is losing brightness with every day that passes.

Jerry Trowbridge is Executive Producer/Technology for The Autism Channel