It is only a few days until the 5th annual World Autism Awareness Day that will be celebrated April 2, 2012. Thus, I found it fitting to post a blog about what Kate Winslet (yes, the famous Oscar winning actress) is doing these days, namely raising awareness – and money – for autism. I had heard whispers about a book she was making related to autism that had something to do with a golden hat but it had not caught my attention enough for me to explore it in further detail. It was not until my friend posted a video-clip of her being interviewed on my Facebook wall that I realized what an important cause this was and how close to home it was hitting.
After our older son got the autism diagnosis it pretty soon came to the point where we discussed whether and to what extent we should tell people about his condition. The very first concern that we had was that telling people about him being autistic would automatically put a label on him with unknown consequences. First and foremost, we were concerned with how it would affect our son but naturally, we discussed it also from our perspective as parents. We took to the internet where we read about how other parents of autistic children were addressing this fundamental question about how openly the child’s autism disorder should be discussed and found that it varies substantially between people. As a result, I have summarized a few plausible affects, both positive and negative, of opening up and telling people about the autism diagnosis.
Before I really start countering our journey, I feel like I need to clarify a few things about autism. The reason is simple; so many people make wrong assumptions when they hear the word autism – and frankly, I was one of them before my elder son got diagnosed.
When I first heard the doctors say that our son had autism, I refused to believe it. It simply couldn’t be right. No no. I was sure the doctors were wrong. My little J.A. was always smiling, loved being around other people, was very social and these were obviously traits that did not fit with autism. Obviously! I mean, his speech wasn’t that much behind his age mates – he was, after all, born prematurely! It was completely natural. Yes, the doctors had gotten it wrong – it was just a misunderstanding. They did not know my son. I did!
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