Why I Walk for Autism Speaks
As parents, we all stress over our kids’ futures. It comes with the territory. But when your son or daughter has autism like my 11-year-old son, it feels harder and the issues parents of children on the spectrum worry about are often things that people with typical children take for granted.
Since Leo was diagnosed just before he turned 3, every time we bring him to his physician, I’ve asked the same questions. I know no one can give me the answers I so desperately crave, but I ask nonetheless. Will my son ever live independently? Will he learn to develop and maintain friendships? Will he be able to go to college and ultimately have a career, or even a job? Who will take care of him if something happens to me, if he’s unable to care for himself?
I want to be able to look into a crystal ball and have at least some sense of what my son’s future may be. Yes, all parents worry about their children. But for me it’s often a matter of existential angst. And it’s not simply because I’m neurotic. This is our reality.
We are also so fortunate that our son is surrounded by many MANY people who love him. By teams who are supporting his development to reach his full potential. So many of our friends have become members of TeamLeo.
Through this collective love—-and Leo’s grit and determination, he’s achieved so many victories and he’s astonished us with his gifts. Most of all he shows us every day the beauty he has within himself. His joyful wonder at the world. His art. His creativity. His super powers. His utter lack of judgment about anyone. His acceptance of everyone. Our son has become our teacher.
But we also know that we should demand more of ourselves and our communities. Where we live—-Silicon Valley—-Innovation is the lifeblood. It’s in the water here.
But we are woefully behind when it comes to innovation for people on the autism spectrum. 1 in 59 children in the U.S. has autism. If those statistics bear out in Silicon Valley, over 9,000 children in this small region are on the autism spectrum.
Here are 5 Reasons Autism Matters to all of us:
1. Neurodiversity is a strength. Some conditions associated with autism are ideal for Silicon Valley jobs, such as attention to detail, pattern recognition and memorization. When we diversify how we look at problems and develop solutions, we gain a competitive edge. Learn more about the strengths and challenges of autism.
2. Your/our customers have autism. Or they care for someone who does. With 70 million people affected worldwide, designing deliverables to address and accommodate this community’s needs is good for the bottom line. Share autism-friendly events with your customers or host one of your own.
3. Unemployment comes with steep costs. Unemployment in the autism community is estimated at 80 to 90 percent. The resulting costs for adult services are upwards of $175 billion a year in the U.S. as taxpayers we support these programs through taxes. Isn’t offering meaningful employment a better option? I challenge companies to post even one job this month on the Autism Speaks online jobs portal.
4. Our community members have loved ones with autism. After learning about a child’s ASD diagnosis, caregivers are 15 times more likely to leave the workforce because they need to more time coordinating care for their child. This is a situation that we can easily address while maintaining a talented and diverse workforce. Strengthen your company’s recruitment and retention by providing appropriate support to these caregivers. The Autism Response Team (ART) is a great place to start.
5. We need to be there for each other, because we do. We live in an era of deep polarization, blame, condemnation and “otherness.” Yet autism cuts across every ethnic, racial, socioeconomic and political divide. It has become a massive societal issue. People with autism are different, not less. We must transcend the things that divide us to create more understanding among us.
Take the Next Step
Whether your company already has these programs in place or still has a lot of work to do, we can step out together and show our community that we’re paying attention.
I ask you to join us—-thousands strong—at the Bay Area Autism Speaks Walk on April 14 at San Jose State University. The Walk supports the life-changing mission of Autism Speaks: enhancing lives today and accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow. For me it’s personal – but even if it wasn’t, I’d be there for our community. I hope you will be, too.
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”
I earned my Walk Tee Shirt!
Striving to become Grand Club member
I raised $1,000 and became a Grand Club Member!
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