A neurological disorder of unknown origin, known today as Autism Spectrum Disorder, was at one time classified as Childhood Schizophrenia. This was during the early days of framing the condition in our modern medical system and all sorts of rumors abound. We now know it is not caused from a frigid mother or bad parenting. It's pretty common knowledge a person on the spectrum does indeed have feelings and is able to form relationships with other people, as unique as those relationships can often be. And undoubtedly some autistic people can't speak, while some can and not all are savant, but some are. While modern medicine hasn't unlocked the puzzle of what makes autism occur, tremendous advancements have been made in treatment options and public awareness. Lots of folks recognize the colorful ribbon with a million little puzzle pieces unique to the spectrum, even those with no direct relationship to the condition. All this progress serves to insure autism is no longer recognized as a mental illness but instead the complicated neurodevelopmental disorder it actually is.
My little brother is autistic and I watched my parents struggle through quite a fight to raise their son. Their battle was not only in managing an angry and confused little boy with overly sensitive sensory abnormalities and disconnections, but in fighting the world at large to understand and accept who their child was, what was wrong with him and where he fit into society. I am thrilled he has grown into quite a self-sufficient young man who now lives in his own apartment, holds down a part-time job and is on a relentless quest to find the love of his life. He is successfully independent today because of the heart and soul my parents poured into him, pushing and fighting for his progress every step of the way. I was at the coffee shop the other day when a family came in. Their young son was a bit wild and making a distinct moaning/yawning sound I recognized right off the bat. The barista leaned over the counter and asked the parents if their child was autistic, for he too had an autistic son, and they started a lively conversation sharing their experiences. Wow has awareness come a long way from the dirty looks and angry stares my family used to get back in the early '90's!
As a Fibromyalgia patient I can't help but draw some parallels here. I often find myself in a similar double dual. Fighting to squeeze the best life I can out of myself while railing against the ignorance, misnomers and lack of public awareness this illness is entrenched in. Searching to find my niche in society where I can be productive, successful and happy. It's a challenge, but like my parents before me I believe the fight for public awareness and acceptance of this illness is my responsibility, for it is my reality. I cannot wait around for science to figure out what causes it or medicine to discover a way to cure it. It's taking too long! Hell, they are still searching for a test to definitively prove we even have it. Autism is still waiting for these advancements as well, but out of sheer necessity the community has banded together and their voice has been heard, recognized and respected. By joining efforts we are following the trail blazed by those before us. Folks who have fought tooth and nail to bring awareness to something evading definition, an illness as confusing to the patients who have it as those who don't. We are not alone in this charge, and are getting there slowly but surely, inch by inch. Each person's effort to raise awareness, better their life or improve their circumstances, that is what is going to turn Fibromyalgia into a "They used to think it was..." illnesses too.
Thanks for joining,