In case you may have missed it, there are autistics out there, and autism organizations want you to be aware of it this April. But only April, okay? The rest of the year, ignore the needs of those with autism who require special accommodations and assistance to live meaningful lives. Heck, if you believe some so-called “pro-autism” groups, you can even relieve yourself of that “burden” of a child and kill them and be held totally innocent by them. (Thankfully, not by the law.)
Okay, maybe I’m being too cynical. The intent of an autism awareness month is good because you always want to bring to the attention of the country/world something that afflicts between 1% and 3% of the population. (Contrary to the shrieks of horror at the “1 in 68” statistic, that number is a prevalence number, and prevalence is not indicative of an outbreak situation.) As I see it, the thing about autism and an autism awareness month, is that the subject has gotten too political, too nasty. Just the other day, I told you about anti-vaccine activists and their followers celebrating a mock story about Dr. Paul Offit being sick. I don’t know about you, but people who have “porno fantasies” of Dr. Offit being injured in any way really don’t have much of a moral leg to stand on when they demand for autism to be investigated:
You do not want the anti-vaccine, anti-science crowd to be the ones to promote an autism awareness anything, not even a special at Chili’s.
Instead of this whole “awareness month” thing, why not make it a point to be “aware” of the social and biological problems of autistics (and those with other neurologic conditions) year-round? Why have a whole month punctuated by constant infighting between autism organizations, fighting between pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine groups, and pompous declarations from elected officials? What does that help? Has any of that brought relief to the families of autistics with manifestations of their autism so severe so as to require special care and assistance? If it has, I’d like to see the citation, please.
I’m not much of a public policy guy, though I’ve been told that I need to be if I plan on moving up in the world. You don’t see a lot of epidemiologists be in front of cameras and such when it comes to policy, but we are in the background. We’re always advising people with more charisma and better faces for television and voices for radio than us. Just the other day, one of my friends got to go and brief a US Senator on BPA toxicity from water bottles. Another friend is going to her state congress in a few weeks to talk about vaccine exemptions. Both of them epidemiologists, but neither of them making a lot of hay about it. (Public Health Week is coming, by the way.)
Anyway, instead of this autism awareness month thing, I propose autism awareness year-round. I propose that we each find a reputable, reasonable organization that helps children and adults with neurological conditions live meaningful, productive lives, and that we volunteer our time with them. For that one or two hours a week or a month, let that time be our own “autism awareness” time. I bet we can do way more than we can by putting on a tee shirt or going to a restaurant to eat crappy food… Or lighting up our house blue. (What’s all that about?)