For years, I viewed April as just another month with a “cause” attached to it. I did not care about autism and was ignorant regarding just about every aspect of it.
I also never understood what it meant to be a true warrior. I believed that warriors must have done at least one of four things: (a) succeeded in the business world, (b) fought on a battlefield, (c) been a superb athlete, or (d) succeeded in the world of politics.
While attaining these goals is certainly admirable, I have learned that these achievements alone do not make a warrior.
The beginning of the removal of my ignorance began in the winter of 2005 when my first-born son entered this world. With him, unconditional love and a touch of courage came into my life. For the first time, I knew what caring about someone else more than myself was like.
Little did I know, he would eventually teach me to much more.
When my son was four years old, he did not speak. My family urged me to get him tested. Yet, I would not consent nor discuss it. For me, the fear of an autism diagnosis was paralyzing.
Finally, after the pressure became unbearable, we had him tested. He was born with autism.
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders that can be analyzed on what is called the “autism spectrum.” A child is born with autism. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. It is estimated that one in 68 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum. The statistics are higher in Georgia.
It would take me another year to accept this diagnosis. But, by 2010, I slowly began to change my view of the warrior. I was also becoming a warrior; an autism warrior.
An autism warrior is a person who battles against the misinformation and stereotypes regarding autism. He or she stands up for those who cannot yet stand for themselves. The warrior confronts the challenge that autism brings to our community and state.
Why become an autism warrior? How does autism affect you? Why should you care?
1. Autism warriors provide levels of relief for thousands of our families and children who needlessly suffer from lack of treatment, bring autism to the forefront of serious issues affecting our state, and help the public understand the nature of autism. The warrior gives to others for no fee or reward of any kind.
2. One in 68 children is a large number. If your child is not autistic, you have an excellent chance of having another family member or friend’s child who is. Hundreds of people have approached me revealing these circumstances, expressing their love for these children, and asking how they can help.
3. Georgia’s economy will be significantly harmed in the future if we ignore the issue. Children who receive treatment are more likely to be able to work and pay taxes. These are only three of the many reasons autism funding, awareness, and education must become a top priority in Georgia beginning today.
As time passed, I learned that while autistic children have challenges, many have extraordinary gifts from God. For example, many of the best engineers, software designers, and problem solvers are autistic.
I also learned that early treatment is critical. A shocking number of families in our community do not have the financial resources to pay for any treatment. This should not exist in one of the wealthiest and giving areas of Georgia. Once our people become aware of the issue, the financial problem will be resolved.
For this reason, the WGAF humbly asks that you focus on awareness this month. First, please visit our website; www.wgaautism.org so that you can learn more about autism and the Foundation. Other important actions you can take include:
(1) wearing pins on your jackets and other merchandise from the WGAF. These items can easily be ordered from one of our autism warriors; Jenn Toney – firstname.lastname@example.org;
(2) joining our team by subscribing to the newsletter on the website and joining a committee;
(3) using our logo to replace your Facebook profile, sharing information about the WGAF on social media, and other media outlets; and
(4) becoming an autism warrior.
Today, we have a legion of autism warriors. Tomorrow, west Georgia will have a standing army.