Looking back at April, one of the best things I did was celebrate National Awareness Month. I had promised myself I would read a book about autism, preferably a non-fiction one, maybe a memoir, and I found just the book in Ron Suskind’s Life Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism.
This 2014 publication by Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is the story of a family, a family turned topsy-turvy by autism. With Owen, Suskind’s son, autism struck at the age of three. Ron and Cornelia, Owen’s parents went from having a typical, “normal” three year old to being the parents of a child who did not speak, often exhibited strange physical acts, and just seemed not to “be there.” Owen’s older brother, Walt, contributed to this book (as did Owen, himself), giving the reader a handle on how autism affects the entire family. Strangely enough, Owen’s parents were able to take his obsession with Disney animated movies, and turn it into a tool used to communicate with their “lost son.” Spoiler Alert: Owen goes on to meet several Disney animators, falls in love, and starts a special Disney Club that acts as a support group for special needs students in college, demonstrating “the true meaning of the words, ‘happily ever after’ .”
Another thing I did was to donate to Autism Speaks after researching the organization that provides research and even assistance to the autism community, something that made me feel good.
At school, I had my classes follow my lesson plan for an “Autism Awareness Day, where my freshmen discussed their original thoughts/opinions/feelings about autism. In the nine o’clock class students discussed in small groups siblings/friends/people they knew who had been diagnosed with autism. In my ten o’clock, we had an autistic young woman, who had shared this diagnosis when she did her Literacy Narrative with the whole class, and her group was blessed with having access to personal experience. All in all it was a good experience for both classes.
I hope to do more next year for Autism Awareness month, but I am warmed with what I learned and shared about autism with others.
KEEP READING ABOUT IMPORTANT THINGS–LIKE AUTISM.