“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.” When the poet Audre Lorde wrote these words I’m sure she wasn’t speaking of autism. I say this because autism awareness was not around when she lived. However there seems to have always been children and adults with characteristics of autism. But “ autism awareness” was not a coined phrase until the new millennium.
World renown spokesperson for autism, Dr. Temple Grandin, wrote in in her book, “Different….Not Less,” published in 2012, that when she was a child, a common diagnosis was adolescent schizophrenia. Children with autistic characteristics were considered incurable. Today the term is ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Grandin did not talk until she was three years old and was officially diagnosed in 1950, sixty-seven years ago. Parents who didn’t want their children to be labeled deliberately held back in getting a diagnosis and physicians seemed to be unable to agree on how to treat a child with autism, according to Dr. Grandin. This would explain why so many in my generation, the same as Dr. Grandin’s, hardly ever heard of autism.
As reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the national estimated prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder increased by 78% between 2002 and 2008. According to data it continues to increase. “These increases reflect better case ascertainment as a result of increases in awareness and access to services.”
Fast-forward to 2017 and the Chattanooga Autism Center. Part of the CAC mission statement is, “to serve as an advocacy resource and build awareness about autism in the region.” We do this in many ways throughout the year but one special day falls on or near the National Autism Awareness Day, April 2nd of every year.
This year the CAC is sponsoring an Autism Awareness Day on Saturday, April 1st. Red Bank Baptist Church has volunteered to host the event in the Family Life Center. DeeJay Haas, volunteer event coordinator for the CAC and her planning committee have been hard at work planning this day. This is the fourth year DeeJay has put on this celebration and every year it grows larger and larger. This is a wonderful tribute the effort of the CAC to bring about autism awareness in the Chattanooga and surrounding areas.
This year’s celebration is from 10:00 a. m. to 1:00 p.m. Everything, including the food is FREE. Registration is not required but if you are on Facebook and can check out the CAC Facebook Page and click here to find the FB event. Doing so will help the committee plan better for all the food and activities.
There are many activities for the children and their families including sensory tables, face painting, science labs, Lookout’s Louie, the Sugar Mocs, among other things. Outside in the parking lot will be the Touch-a-Truck (fire truck, EMS, or police car). Over thirty vendors have signed up to come. And plans also include a silent auction and door prizes.
Quiet rooms are available and because the CAC is sensitive to all the many different children on the spectrum, careful attention is taken to insure every child will have a good time and parents will enjoy connecting with other parents and siblings without autism can feel accepted as well. Precautions are being taken to avoid long lines at the food tables so everyone will be happy and full.
The purpose of this event is to connect to the community at no cost for families. It is for families with someone on the spectrum, grandparents with grandchildren on the spectrum, as well as the general public who wants to learn more about autism.
The CAC continues to increase autism awareness on a daily basis, but invites everyone to consider being a part of this event. Anyone who wishes to volunteer or has any question may contact Deejay Hass at Deejay@chattanoogaautismcenter.org; or go here to volunteer.