There is a very good reason I support anything related to autism.
That reason was born on December 17, 2007.
His name is Rafael.
He is my son.
Rafael is a twin. His sister Estella was born 18 minutes after him.
After Rafael's first birthday... I knew something was different.
When he was diagnosed as being 'on the autism spectrum', I cried lots.
Sometimes, I get frustrated... but the tears stopped long ago.
Instead, my energy was channelled into action.
Enrolling Rafael into Learning Links weekly playgroup (we still go, every week... Estella loves it, too).
And a daycare where special needs are catered for. Plus KU funding, so he gets more one on one time there.
And speech therapy, and occupational therapy, and extra 'speechie' visits at his daycare.
Rafael is progressing in leaps and bounds. We had an appointment at Community Paediatrics at my local hospital a month ago.
I asked the paediatrician about the notes on his file a year before.
It said he knew two words.
Now... well, I have lost count.
My husband and I are so proud of our boy. He has such a willingness to learn, a beautiful nature and spirit, and an innocence that breaks our hearts. [His tantrums... still happen. We just know how to manage them now].
And we are so proud of Estella. Not only for being an hysterically funny, warm character.
But for demonstrating an ability for compassion, inclusiveness, and empathy well beyond her years.
I always say to my husband, Estella will be his biggest advocate at school, and throughout life. His biggest cheerleader (and, I joke, will want to pummel anyone who even looks at him the wrong way).
And this quality - to be empathetic - is exactly what I hope to see more of in society. In the everyday. A willingness to understand your fellow human being - child or adult - if they act differently to you.
And so, I happily support the Light It Up Blue Australia campaign - in honour of World Autism Day - on April 2.
Some facts, from the Light It Up Blue Australia campaign [see http://www.lightitupblue.com.au/]:
Autism is the most common developmental disorder in Australia.
In Australia, 1 in 110 children have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
More children are diagnosed with an ASD than childhood AIDS, diabetes, cancer combined.
No one knows the cause. There is no cure. But there is hope.
I will be wearing blue on April 2. To show my support for the cause.
I hope this story makes you want to wear blue, too.
Want to read more?
I have written about autism and schools here: http://studiobambini.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78:on-the-spectrum&catid=39:editorial&Itemid=58
And about autism and 'Communication Shutdown' here: http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/communication-shutdown-to-promote-understanding/