Autism is everywhere. In the news. In social media. In my life.
It’s been more than a decade since two of our children were diagnosed with Autism. We were afraid. We cried. We didn’t know what to do. We researched every potential cause and considered pretty much every form of treatment suggested by anybody, even the crackpots. We participated in detailed scientific studies. Read every paper available. Underwent genetic testing and analysis. Attended symposiums. Learned much. Dismissed more. Made difficult choices based on less-than-perfect information.
Then we watched lobby groups emerge, raise money and become powerful. They put a public face on Autism. A face of celebrity. A face of fear. Not my face. Not my fear.
This past week, the Chili’s restaurant chain announced, and then retracted, that they were going to donate 10% of Monday’s checks to an Autism lobby group, who happens to be anti-vaccination. First, I would like to applaud Chili’s for wanting to help. Next, I want to applaud them for cancelling and looking to donate in a manner that will be more helpful. I could chastise them for choosing the NAA in the first place, but that isn’t productive and I don’t know that I would approve any more of a different lobby group.
Here’s the thing: I don’t like the current crop of Autism lobby groups. They exaggerate, misrepresent and even lie to raise money. They spend that money on salaries, lobbying and raising more money. Very little of it goes to help families with Autism and I haven’t seen any significant lobbying, let alone results, on behalf of those families.
Families with Autism need support. The groups that provide that support are the ones with boots on the ground in your community. Groups that don’t get national press coverage. Groups that understand our fear and look to relieve it.
This past weekend I attended my first Ad Astra, a local SFF con. On Saturday, they raised money to benefit Autism Ontario. AO is one of those organizations providing real, tangible support to families with Autism.
One of Autism Ontario’s programs provides funding to pay for support personnel (via the equally-outstanding Reach for the Rainbow) to allow kids to attend summer camps. I have no idea how much money Ad Astra raised, but I would bet that it will fund camp for at least a couple of kids and I am certain that it will make an immediate difference in the lives of those families.
That is the face of Autism in my world. That is Mrs. Cheffo. Her fears are my fears.
I would like thank Ad Astra, and all who attended, for raising money and putting boots on the ground in direct support of families with Autism, including mine.
If you want to support families with Autism, I ask that you look in your own backyard and encourage the people you want to help to take to social media to talk about the organizations that help them, so that you can direct your dollars accordingly.