So here we are, well into the month of May. The “Light it Up Blue” campaign for Autism Awareness in April has come and gone and you feel proud because you took some great selfies in blue shirts! While I am very happy that you participated, I want that fire to stay alive 365 days a year. Families with Autism face multiple struggles on a daily basis. Autism Awareness isn’t one of those things that I want to see trend on Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn for a week and then die down. Autism is a way of life for many people in the world and it isn’t talked about very much.
I and many others in America heard the #shms (Steve Harvey Morning Show) on Friday, March 27. He was acting under one of his many characters when he made a joke about an adult person with special needs. I personally like Steve Harvey and I respect him as a businessman. When I heard the joke, I was more shocked than upset. I was surprised that a man with such class would make such a joke. In the days of social media, people in certain positions must be careful of jokes they tell. Although he is a comedian, he is also a talk show and game show host. He did offer what I thought to be “kind of an apology” later that day. There is also a video floating around from a mother that responded to Steve Harvey’s joke. Many are saying that the woman is being “too sensitive” and that she should “get a sense of humor”. This brings me shatter a few myths about Autism today.
Autism is a mental health disorder
Autism is not a mental health disorder. Autism is however, a neurological disorder. There have been a few studies of people with Autism that have revealed abnormalities in their brain structure. I was asked if I thought Autism was a disease. My answer is NO! I believe a disease is something that can easily be found in many people because the symptoms are the same. Autism is comprised of various behavioral and/or social skills that are many times difficult to manage.
Individuals with Autism are violent
This could not be more far from the truth. Because people with Autism may not understand “normal” social cues and sarcasm, they may find it hard to communicate their wants and needs. There are also many people with Autism that are challenged with verbal communication skills. Imagine if there was something that you wanted to tell someone very bad, but you couldn‘t get the words out. I can imagine that it would make you frustrated. There are a variety of programs available across the world for people with Autism that struggle with managing behaviors. My program located in Maryland is just one of many. I also would suggest a product that I offer that can be used in the home or classroom to promote positive behaviors for kids on the Autism Spectrum. I have partnered with “Bear on the Chair” after having tried it myself. My students responded to it very well as they loved to make their bear friend smile. It can be viewed for purchase here http://www.bearonthechair.com/products/bear-on-the-chair-1 Be sure to use the code word “leaf” .
All individuals with Autism have mental disabilities
Individuals on the autism spectrum are unique, with a wide range of intellectual abilities that easily can be under or over estimated. There are some tests given that may misrepresent the intelligence of people with autism, who struggle with social skills. Individuals with autism may have difficulty with tasks considered simple, but quickly master complex tasks and concepts. Individuals on the autism spectrum have also earned college and graduate degrees and work in a variety of professions. Asperger’s Syndrome is on the Autism Spectrum. There are many college professors with Asperger’s.
Autism can be cured
With all of the research being done, there is still currently no cure for Autism. There are many families that have a more difficult time dealing with this disorder because of the lack of social skills and communication skills their loved one has. LEAF Learning Center in Maryland is one of many programs across the country that provides assistance to youth ages 3-21 on the Autism Spectrum. LEAF provides Positive Behavior Interventions to help support youth with academics, learning functional skills, and even on community outings. To support LEAF Learning Center through a donation or for more information, please visit www.learnwithleaf.com or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/learnwithleaf
Autism is caused by poor parenting
In the 1950s, there was an assumption that autism was caused by emotionally distant parents. The exact cause of autism has not been determined as of today. It certainly does not have anything to do with parenting. I personally think that parents of kids with Autism are some of the strongest people on the earth. Day to day, you face the unknown because your child’s mood can change or their sensory needs are in overdrive. I applaud you every day and would never think of saying parenting is the cause of Autism.