Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Autism Awareness

We're heading towards April, "Autism Awareness Month." Somehow I always have mixed emotions about this concept. Is Autism Speaks defining awareness in the same way that I do? Is autism awareness a matter of just giving everyone blue wristbands and raising money? Is it enough that people be made aware of the number of people that are on the spectrum that they bump into in a day? Or is there some sort of understanding required?

Amidst these mixed emotions I got an email from one of the Baltimore Saints hockey coaches, marking the end of the inaugural season of the team. The Saints are a Special Hockey team, with lots of autistic members. Here's an excerpt:

When my brother came to me and asked me to help I had no idea what to expect, but as I met parents and players I started to learn that this was going to be something I was going to look forward to every Saturday. As I talked to some parents this weekend in Buffalo I learned a lot about your children. There was a time when I went to a store and saw a child not behaving, all I could think was, "Wow, how could that mom or dad not handle that child?" Now that I have been with your children, all I want to do is see if there is something I can do to help, knowing that the child may be like one of the children on my hockey team.

I've decided that this coach is more than just aware of autism and other neurological challenges. He has a level of understanding, he's involved, and most importantly, he cares. Maybe that's what we should be shooting for in April.

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