Monday, April 2, 2012

Light It Up Blue - Autism Awareness Day

Those of you who know me best know I'm not one to get overly involved in causes and charities, repost this, that, and the other thing on Facebook. It's just not my way.  I hang out on Facebook for casual conversation, kicks and giggles, promotion of my writing stuff, and just for sheer randomness.  So I don't really use it for social action.

But there is one social cause that my family has become intimately aware of over the past three years, and that's Autism Awareness. We have a very personal, close to home reason why, however.  Many of you are new around the old blog, too, so this serves as a "get to know us better" sort of thing.

Three years ago come this April, our five year old son Zackary was diagnosed as severely autistic.  It was hard, as you can imagine.  He was two years old, not speaking, and we'd hoped it was merely a matter of delayed speech.  Abby took the diagnosis very hard, as any mother would.  

In my own way, I took it even harder. Because before ever meeting Abby and before teaching English, I'd worked with special needs children, autistic ones in particular.  And I'd seen it, at it's worst.  I knew how bad it could get, and at that point - we stood on the precipice of unknowing, and had no idea how things would turn out.

Three years later, and we've been immensely blessed. Zack - through a virtual miracle - gained admittance into a pre-school intervention program at Binghamton University, one with world-wide renown.  Since beginning school there, his vocabulary has exploded from one word to complex sentences, humorous and witty expressions, reactive and interactive speech we never thought possible three years ago.  We still struggle and Zack is still delayed, but at this point, if you met him on the street, there'd be nothing to differentiate him from any other normal, rambunctious five year old boy. The picture above would've been impossible three years ago. He never would've posed, let alone smiled.

But we're one of the blessed ones.  So many others have it much worse than us.  And early intervention is so important.  I can't stress enough how vitally important it is to eschew fears about diagnosis, forget about fears of labeling, to get tested early.  The people at the Children's Institute were delighted and eager to work with Zack, because as they stated it, they were getting him at the best possible time - that the ages between 1 and 3 were the "golden years", the best time possible to start intervention. 

And they were right.  Zack has grown in leaps and bounds, and his chances of living a life unimpeded by autism (notice I didn't say "normal", because our definition of that word has been radically altered around here) have grown exponentially.

But as I said, others aren't so lucky.  So this is one cause I happily promote every year.  That's one of my hopes and dreams for my writing career, is that someday I'll be in a position to do more to promote Autism Awareness, that my career will someday grow in a way that'll give me a greater voice with which to share Autism Awareness.  

For now, though, all I have is this little ole' blog, so that'll have to do. Please share this blog, visit Light It Up Blue today, on Autism Awareness Day.  Also, here are some past posts I've made on the topic, so you can see how far we've come: