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Being Aware of Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month. All over Facebook, the web, the TV, and your town, you’ll see public service announcements and ads for autism awareness. You may have seen the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control – one in 88 children (one in 54 boys) under 8 years old in the U.S. has some form of autism. That’s a lot of kids, folks! And I’m raising my fair share of them, or so it feels some days.

Patrick

Patrick during a quiet moment at Epcot

You would expect a lot of autism information here during April, and I will be posting some, guest posting on a few other blogs, and generally doing my part to share the world of autism with the blogosphere. But I’ll be honest, I kind of dread April. Last night, driving home from the clinic where our boys receive ABA* therapy three times a week, I saw the blue billboard advertising the new statistics and a link to the Autism Society for more information. Driving 45 miles an hour (and not a mile over, Officer!) down the main drag through town fighting back tears. Everywhere I go, everything I read reminds me of autism, and how I’m up to my ears in it.

I kind of miss the days when I was only vaguely aware of autism. Ignorance is bliss, right?

We took our first family trip to Walt Disney World a few months after our boys were officially diagnosed, back in 2012. We needed an escape from reality, and what better place to escape than a Disney resort? That trip was life-changing. It is the one place I know of that our family can go and relax. Autism comes too, but somehow in that place, in that atmosphere, it recedes a bit. It’s not quite so hard. That is the real magic of Disney.

The fort on Tom Sawyer Island

The fort on Tom Sawyer Island

That’s also why I’m not doing a lot on Return to Disney for Autism Awareness Month. I’m so intensely aware of autism that I need a place I can go to relax. This blog is that place for me – where by some magic autism recedes a bit, and I can focus on happier things.

Do you wish you knew more about the mystery of autism? I’ve gathered a few posts on coping with autism at Disney resorts into a list on the sidebar. Those are a good place to start. Want to know more – how to tell if a kid in the parks has autism? How to act when you encounter a person with autism? How you can help a parent dealing with an autistic child’s difficult behavior? Just ask. I promise I won’t think you’re a horrible person for not instinctively knowing! After all, I’m used to it. One of the hallmarks of autism is a lack of intuitive social knowledge. My kids have to be taught, academically, how to behave in different situations. Post a comment, or if you’d rather ask questions privately, email me at Tricia at ReturnToDisney.com.

Safari Breakfast at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom

*Applied Behavior Analysis – one of the few autism therapies that’s been scientifically proven to help just about every child with autism develop coping, social, and life skills. There are hundreds of other therapies out there and most of them are controversial because they help some children but not others, or their effectiveness is purely based on anecdotal evidence that can’t be replicated in a controlled study. Not that ABA is the only effective therapy, it’s just the starting point. One of the very few things we actually know works every time.