Jason's Connection is excited that Tom Klinedinst, from the blog "My Walk With Tyler", will be guest blogging for Jason's Connection. This blog series is about his journey with his son, Tyler, and is intended to provide a voice to caregivers, especially those with special needs children.
This month we have heard a lot about autism awareness. I love the idea of using blue lights and other methods to raise awareness. Raising awareness is critical to becoming a more accepting society, and to understand how we can enrich the lives of those people on the spectrum...
As wonderful as awareness itself is...I believe we should be promoting awareness AND action. Through awareness we can change the way people view things, but if that is not somehow turned into action, things change too slowly. Our loved ones on the spectrum need to be understood, and that is a tremendous help, but they also need action, and they need it quickly.
Depending on the source, you will find that 1 in about 68 children are currently born on the autism spectrum. This is a terrifying statistic that has even been sited as high as 1 in 45. Obviously the largest area of concern is with providing proper support for all of the individuals with these disabilities. However, when considering the medical costs, therapeutic needs, emotional toll on caregivers, need for research, special education, etc., we are quickly losing ground in this fight. As the need grows, the resources are becoming more scarce. Most frightening of all for me, is thinking about how all of these diagnosed children will become adults in the not-so-distant-future.
AWARENESS IS NOT ENOUGH.
We have to inspire people to take action. This can be accomplished in many different ways. We must become advocates for our children as well as the other children around us who are in need. Our voices alone can inspire action. We need to educate our schools, churches, and medical providers on how to better accommodate our children. When we see things that aren't working, we must demand change. For example:
We took Tyler to a local major amusement park. This park had been built many years ago, so in my opinion much of their handicap accessibility was lacking. One particular ride we wanted to get on had an exit that doubled as a handicap entrance. Unfortunately, the exit had a blind spot which blocked the operator from seeing us. So we stood there unable to get the operator's attention for a very long time. We finally did, rode the ride and all was well. And I could have stopped there. But when I got home I immediately wrote an e-mail to the park administration and explained my concern. To my surprise, I got a very prompt reply from an engineer who asked for my suggestion on how to make sure this never happened again. I gave them a few suggestions, like a simple mirror, or a button to press which would light an indicator that would alert them to someone's presence. I was informed that a design change would be implemented immediately.
Being aware that there was a problem didn't fix the problem, action did. While accessing an amusement park ride is not going to change the world, its a simple example of what one voice can do. When there are larger problems, a chorus of voices drive change.
There are so many other ways to take action. There are a world of opportunities to volunteer our time. We can get involved in support groups, propose legislative changes, raise funds, write books, or simply reach out to families in need. Being aware that the family next door has an autistic child is great, but offering to help shovel snow, or making them a dessert, or simply asking what you can do to make a difference in their lives is powerful action.
Yes...lets promote awareness..but lets do more to promote Awareness Into Action!
My Walk With Tyler is about my journey with my son, Tyler, and is intended to provide a voice to caregivers, especially those with disabled children. To be fair, I am not a therapist, or an expert on special needs, nor would I intend to pretend to be. My goal is to share all of the triumphs and heartbreaks that we have been through, especially during this transition into Tyler’s residential placement. Because there is no “manual” for caregivers to follow, we must help each other find the way. My hope is that through my advice, stories, and experiences that the reader can find nuggets to add to their own journey. To read more from Tom click here!