Reaching beyond the afflicted (and their families)….I share a common need with many parents affected by autism.
We want to help others and create awareness in the hope we could somehow make an impact. It is a passion I never knew I had (or was going to have).
In my own quest for raising awareness, I participate in yearly fundraising walks (Autism Speaks), “diversity day” at my son’s school, social networking sites like twitter and facebook, and personal blogging. I view my efforts as somewhat cathartic with hope that I am touching others in even the slightest of ways. What gnaws at me is the fact that our pleas, experiences, or lectures are only heard by those who have a personal interest in autism already. Beyond the autistic community, is anyone really listening? Are we making the impact that we hope to?
With these questions in mind, I search for alternative (even creative methods) to reach beyond the families who are already all to aware. It is not that easy. Most activists or listening participants are those people who already have a personal experience with autism. Most of society is only aware of what they need to be aware of. If there is no need (i.e. no personal stake in understanding autism spectrum disorders), most won’t hear our messages. So how do we get around this? We don’t, but we can try.
Teens are my most recent target. I really feel like they can make the most difference with our children. Not monetarily, but in relatedness and their future. Money can buy research, but for me I’m searching for my son’s success. I don’t diminish the need to find prevention, but that won’t help my son. I need to try to give him the best possible environment in finding his way through this maze. Establishing a way to connect with the teens of today, and their impressionable minds, can help him when he is finally ready for high school…and it may help my extended family of sons and daughters currently in those years.
My plan is to close the circle in creating a comprehensive awareness of autism in teens…
A little goes a long way: The first step I took was to write my personal story to the editor of my high school’s newsletter. I thought it may be a way to reconnect with fellow classmates. I’ll post the letter soon in a follow-up, but it made so much more of an impression than I ever would have imagined. The letter circulated among the staff and landed in the hands of a bright student in need of a project. She took on our cause and raised funds for the Doug Flutie organization (I am from Buffalo and this was appropriate). The walls of my high school were covered with autism awareness signs from personal donors. It may only be one high school, but the students are now aware. Imagine if every family afflicted wrote to their high school. I wonder what impact that would have.
How do we know we have come full circle in teens?
…a teen believes learning about, seeking out and engaging autistic teens is not only trendy but an enjoyable opportunity to make a new friend(s).