World Autism Awareness Day – and me

Today is the fifth annual World Autism Awareness Day. Last April, President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation which proclaimed April 2 of each year as World Autism Awareness Day. 

 I call upon the people of the United States to learn more about autism and what they can do to support individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.

Did I read any news articles about this? No. Now, I’m not trying to claim that there were no articles to read. Rather, I am admitting that I had other things on my mind at the time. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, World Autism Awareness Day and National Autism Awareness Month were completely off my radar until recently.

So, what did I care about a year ago? I looked back to see what, if anything, I had posted on April 2, 2011. No post that day, but the one on the following Monday was based on pictures I had taken on that particular Saturday. I wrote about trying to create a new routine with Philip of walking with Roscoe in the evening. That was when I was first attempting to walk Philip without the stroller.

I looked at a calendar to see what else I might have been doing on World Autism Awareness Day 2011. That was the Saturday before the first day of my current job. As soon as I was offered the job, we began hunting for a new place to live. Were we concerned about autism? Not especially. I remember some people mentioning the relative merits of school districts in the different areas in which we were looking. But that was not the priority. Instead, we were preoccupied with finding a place that would accept our dog, was bigger, closer to my new job and affordable.

But, while I may not have been thinking about autism specifically, I was aware that Philip was not developing as most children do. He wasn’t talking and had stopped babbling. He didn’t respond to his name and did  not make eye contact when someone was speaking to him. He just seemed to be in his own world. But we were hopeful that, with time, Philip would begin to talk on his own.

I now know these were some of the early warning signs of autism.

But a lot can change in a year and, sometimes, it is for the better. A year later, Philip has a diagnosis. Receiving a diagnosis helps my husband and I understand Philip’s behaviors a little better, giving us a frame of reference for interacting with him. It informs our decisions about what activities we should be doing, what treatments we should be seeking. A year later, I am more personally aware of autism, yet aware enough to know I still have more to learn.

And you know what else is different a year later? More often than not, Philip is now responding to his name. In fact, this evening, when Peter and I picked him up from his day at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, we said, “Hi, Philip.” And he turned, looked us in the eye and smiled.


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