April 2nd, World Autism Day is over and as someone on the spectrum, I’m left wondering rather bemusedly Well what was all that about? I’ve seen buildings light up blue, people wearing onesies to work in support of World Autism Day and autism awareness posters with their rainbow coloured jigsaw pieces proliferate across Facebook.
Now, when we settle back into the reality that is autism, I’m inclined to question the point of it all. People may – just may – have a better awareness of the existence of autism because someone wore a Mickey Mouse onesie to work but do they have any more awareness of what this complex and often baffling condition is?
For the parents of autistic children who haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in years, who face a visit to the supermarket with the kind of dread most people reserve for the dentist and who when not kept awake at night by their child are kept awake worrying what the future holds for them, you would like to think autism awareness week has made a difference. For the higher functioning ones amongst us who survive just above baseline on government pay-outs or minimum wage jobs, isolated, disorganized, bewildered and despairing of the strange world we have to operate in you would hope so too.
But I’m not convinced. Autism is not a once a year thing like Christmas, one day when we all try to be nice to each other. Autism doesn’t respect days of the week, times of year, age, gender or national boundaries. It’s here for life and for those of us who have it, for every hour of our life.
Not wishing to sound too cynical, I do appreciate that there is probably a lot of good intent involved. In spite of the razzmatazz, the “Gee, wasn’t Rainman amazing!” tweets, and the soap box opportunity for those in power to tell us how much they are doing to help (for this much publicised week anyway), I believe that those who have a personal involvement with autism are doing their best. But aren’t they preaching to the converted? I remain unsure how a building lit up blue and a Micky Mouse onesie is going to enlighten the already enlightened. Come to think of it, none of it has enlightened me about what it’s all about either.