Autism Awareness Rising

April is Autism Awareness Month. Our President, Jason Swindle, has written a special article about Autism and the impact it is making in the community.

AUTISM AWARENESS RISING

I have always thought that naming months after things, causes, or parts of life to draw attention to something was ineffective.  What about the other 11 months out of the year?
It was not until I saw the critical need to make our people aware of autism and its effect on society that I finally figured out the importance of highlighting issues for a month.  That one month gets our attention and many people remember the information for the rest of the year.  

I used to view April as the heart of turkey hunting season.  To a lesser degree, I still do.  But, another rising force has changed my view of April.

April is Autism Awareness Month.

Every April, autism awareness continues to rise.  This is evident by the overwhelming support the West Georgia Autism Foundation (WGAF) received at January’s Snow Ball.  
 
West Georgia’s example is actually known across the nation.  It is rare for a community our size to embrace an issue so quickly.  But, we are a rare community.

To honor the month of April, the below will provide the most important, yet concise, information about autism and how it affects every single person in Georgia and nationwide.

1.  Autism is not a rare condition.  In 2019, 1 out of 52 boys will be born in Georgia with autism.  1 in 165 girls will be born with autism.  10.66 million people live in our state.  Georgia is also one of the fastest growing states.  We just surpassed Michigan to become the 8th most populous state.  The number of children born with autism in Georgia this year will be astronomical.

2.  Autism is viewed as a “spectrum.”  Some children are born on the high functioning end.  The medical community once called this Asperger’s Syndrome.  Some characteristics are very poor social skills, outbursts at times when too many sensory stimuli are surrounding the child, and other behavioral issues.  The lower end of the spectrum is heartbreaking.  Many of these children are non-verbal.  They do not speak.  Then, there are the many who fall somewhere in between.

3.  Why care?  There are plenty of problems our nation is facing.  First, Georgia is one of the leaders in addressing the needs of our autistic people.  Former Governor Deal, Governor Kemp,and the vast majority of the General Assembly have whole hardly supported autism related legislation before most states even knew there was a problem.  Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan (R) (Carrollton) is one of the largest supporters in the state.  Our state government and private sector have chosen to lead on this issue by helping families who cannot afford the vital services needed for autistic children.  

Second, when a child from a family without the financial resources to obtain treatment at a very young age enters school, education expenses can be 30 percent higher than what is seen in the average studentFurther down the road, these autistic children become adults.  Without that early ongoing treatment, autistic individuals generate 60 percent less economic productivity because they grow up being less independent.  When this happens, people must look to their families and the government for assistance.  You and I pay those bills involuntarily through taxation.  However, when many of these young children can be diagnosed and begin treatment, their chances of becoming independent taxpaying citizens increases.  The chain of dependence for those with autism is broken.  The taxpayer’s burden is lessened.  The coffers of our state grow.
4.  Although there is not a “cure” per se for autism, speech therapy, behavioral interventionsequine therapy, medications,and other treatments have been employed successfully when administered at an early age.  Organizations like the WGAF provide the funding for the many qualified families who cannot afford these vital treatments.  Each year, autism awareness makes this task easier to accomplish.
A REQUEST
The above information is just a short description autism’s impact on us.  But, if all of our friends, family, and people we know had this information, the need for Autism Awareness Month would disappear.  
I look forward to the day when awareness is no longer needed.
We can take the first step today by simply spreading the word in conversation, becoming involved in foundations like the WGAF, and/or just sharing this column.
Let’s move forward together today.  With God leading our path, nothing has the power to stop us.

For more information about what is being done in west Georgiaor to get involved, please visit www.wgaautism.org or email Dr. Harry Nelson at harry.nelson.wgaf@gmail.com.
Jason Swindle
President, West Georgia Autism Foundation