When the CDC released it's most recent statistics on autism, 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys, people were shocked. That is an increase in 23% since 2006 and a 78% increase since 2002. Since the CDC starting tracking the rates of autism in 1992, the prevalence of autism has doubled. Why do the autism rates keep increasing? Are we just diagnosing more kids on the low end of the autism spectrum? Kids that when we were in high school were not given an autism label, but instead wore labels such as "geek", "nerd", "loner" or "weirdo". Is an increase in awareness causing an increase in autism rates? Or is it something more ominous like toxins in our environment? Are the same pollutants, toxins, etc that are causing the polar ice caps to melt, causing our children to struggle in areas such as verbal and non-verbal language, social interaction and sensory processing? AWEnestly, I have no idea. I can't even help my kids with math once they get passed the third grade so chances are VERY good I will not discover the cause or the cure for autism.
As a math deficient mom with a 1 in 54 boy, what I can tell you is my son is so much more than a number. He is love, he is smiles, he is giggles. He is back tickles and hand holding. He is a snugly boy wrapped in a soft, fleece Mario blanket. He is a little boy approaching adolescense. He is an 11 year old who grumbles like a 90 year old curmudgeon. He is warm morning breath whose arms fit perfectly around me every single morning. He is a connoisseur of hamburger buns, the "good ones", the "hard ones", the "gooey ones", the "grainy ones" and the "gross ones". He is anxious. He is angry. He is a video game addict who has entered and mastered every one of Mario's world. He is quiet. He ignores you. He is painfully AWEnest, but he never intends to hurt you. He is an unexpected hug. He is unlimited love. He is an uproariously funny kid, who often does not get jokes. He is a comedian who will never take the stage. He is music with a gift from God, but he may never share it. He is a rule follower. He is beautiful inside and out. He is gorgeous, thick hair, and he hates brushing it. He is an apple who didn't fall far from the tree he loves so much. He is a victim. He is bullied. He is a friend to a chosen few. He is anti-dentist, anti-doctor and anti-anything he perceives as remotely dangerous (from tongue depressors to butterflies) . He is a bug hater of all kinds and does not discriminate. He is routine. He is a loner often by choice, but sometimes by necessity. He is tagless, soft cotton Hollister tshirts and silk shorts. He is a brother who loves, laughs and fights. He is a lover of pudding and anything cinnamon. He is a budding meterologist. He is part fish. He is a GPS, a calculator, and a calendar. He is a photographic memory except for people's names. He is success. He is struggles. He is an alien trying to adapt to an uninhabitable planet. He is a son that loves his mother to the sun and back. He is joy. He is lost. He is pride. He is empathy. He is irreplaceable. He is perfect. He is mine.
So during this month of Autism Awareness when you will hear so much about the numbers, keep in mind that behind every number is a beautiful face, an enormous heart and an innocent soul. These "numbers" have parents who love them, fight for them, advocate for them and try to make the world understand "different, not less". And if I were to give you just one piece of advice when it comes to understanding the numbers of autism it would be this, if you know one child with autism, then you know ONE child with autism. Each child just as unique as you and me. To the CDC, my son may be number 10, 42 or 54, but to me he is the hand that I hold, the smile that blows the clouds away, the joy that fills my soul and the rare, colorful gem found in a world full of common, colorless pebbles gifted to me. He is not a number, he is my heart. He is Ryan.
Keeping it real, raw, and AWEnest while laughing, loving and living in our world
touched by Autism.
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