Autism is a mystery. Right now, we don’t even know what causes Autism. Not knowing what causes Autism hits home for me because I have Autism; my cousin and father have Autism too.
Autism is commonly referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. ASD is a complex disorder, but which is characterized by varying degrees of deficiencies in communication skills, a different understanding of social interaction, repetitive behaviors and a resistance to change. I was diagnosed with Autism 12 years ago and while I am higher functioning, I experience most of the characteristics above, but in varying degrees.
When a child is diagnosed with ASD it affects many people, including the community and beyond. Depending on the level of functioning, an autistic child often comes with a big price tag for parents and taxpayers who are responsible for the funds needed to provide resources and support for that child. In my experience, my parents and the school system have been able to provide most of the extra support I require, but my cousin, who cannot live at home and requires 24 - hour care, requires a much greater cost to the community and will for years to come. A leading Canadian website on Autism, www.autismsocietycanada.ca, says that the incidence of Autism in on the rise and with every new diagnosis, the cost of caring for autistic children and adults increases.
In my experience, when I was diagnosed my parents were given very little information and support, but that over time more resources have become available. I have found that the resources and support systems built into the school system are helpful, but my parents often say that they are worried about the resources available to me when I become an adult.
How can we solve this problem? The solution sounds simple: find the cause of Autism and you will find the cure. The only way to find the cause of Autism is to spend more money on research, but that money has to come from somewhere. If people and politicians don’t understand the importance of Autism research and how much Autism costs, then the money will not go to Autism research.
How do we get people to care? We count on education and awareness. Movies, such as Temple Grandin, and television shows like Parenthood with autistic characters have increased awareness and many more books, websites and organizations do the same to bring awareness and educate people about Autism. Education and awareness equals money for research.
What can you do to contribute to the solution and help find a cause for Autism? Go and see your Member of the Legislative Assembly or member of Parliament to encourage them to spend money on Autism research. You can donate money to Canadian Autism charities and research organizations like The Canadian National Autism Foundation or the Canadian chapter of Autism Speaks. You can participate in or create your own event in the community to raise money and increase awareness of Autism. There is so much even one person can do to find the cause of and ultimately the cure for Autism.