What I Hope This Decade Holds for the Autism Community
This is why the autism community needs to continue to advocate.
For so long when I was growing up with autism, my parents wondered what resources would be possible for me to receive. Would they come as part of my IEP? Would they need to be paid out of pocket?
While the questions lingered on for my family, one thing was for certain: the lack of awareness and education truly made for a challenging time for many in our community. When I was diagnosed in 1992, about one in every 1000 children were being diagnosed, and today autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability. I was very lucky to have a strong support system at home who became my greatest advocates — some don’t have that. Today I’m a full-time professional speaker who travels the country to educate on autism and neurodiversity.
Fast forward to 2020 and the decade ahead. I believe we must make it our mission to provide reliable resources for those with autism across the lifespan. We’ve come a long way, but still have a ways to go. Here are some other wishes I have for the next decade.
- While resources are my main wish for the next decade, we also need more awareness, acceptance, understanding and appreciation for those in our autism community. This starts by parents, family members, educators, therapists, government officials, celebrities, self-advocates along with countless others continuing to share their stories in this digital age to continue to make our voices as loud as humanly possible.
- Discussing high support needs autism more in our community. A teen asked me after my keynote speech this year if “Everyone with autism ends up like ‘The Good Doctor.’” Countless still see autism in the lens of “Rain Man,” geniuses and savants. Autism is a spectrum.
- More unity instead of division. Autism self-advocates such as I have spoken up on this topic along with autism advocates like autism mom blogger Kim McCafferty. So much bullying takes place in our community. We need to listen more and provide constructive feedback to support one another. Our universal goal should be progress for everyone.
- Sensory-friendly events, such as sensory-friendly Santa and Broadway’s Autism Theater Initiative. I’ve played Santa for those with disabilities the past six years, trying to support others knowing about my struggles with things like sensory challenges growing up. We need more and more of these events all year round to keep our kids engaged with the world around them.
- More discussions on adult autism. We are doing much better when it comes to topics like employment, postsecondary, housing and guardianship but more still needs to be done. Children with autism will grow up to be adults with autism and we need to be ready for them.
While I probably have another 50 wishes I could tell you about today, I just want to leave you with this. There are possibilities ahead in our autism community. It’s up to all of us to advocate and fight to the best of our abilities to provide as many of these as we can for the next decade.
This story originally appeared here. Follow Kerry at Kerry’s Autism Journey.
Getty image by Nikki Zalewski.