A sympathy card arrived in the mail last week from my brother Tim. My godmother Ginny passed away, and Tim enclosed the newspaper notice. Last month my 2 sons received Easter cards from Uncle Tim, as did Tim’s 3 nieces. St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s, Halloween, not to mention Christmas and birthdays, Tim’s cards are like clockwork, always early. Honestly, we sort of take them for granted now. We shouldn’t.
Tim was diagnosed in the 1970’s with “moderate” autism. While today I often burst with pride talking about my brother, it wasn’t always that way. “Mom, why do I have to take Tim on my paper route? He asks everyone what deodorant they use!” Mom got a rare, good laugh but his bold, socially outrageous inquiries to strangers made me cringe as a 14-year-old. “Excuse me, sir, you have a bald head. Can I touch it?” Or “Ugh, PHEW! You have BAD breath” to a stunned department store worker during Christmas shopping. Tim never said a word until age 5 and it seemed he was making up for lost time at my expense.
Today Tim lives semi-independently, is a lector at his church, and has a morning job. On afternoons, he volunteers at two nursing homes doing patient transport. For 15 years he has always shown up on time and he never forgets the residents’ names. He was voted “Volunteer of the Year” at St. John’s Home and was recognized at the annual volunteers’ dinner. He didn’t make much of it. In fact, he did not mention it until we found out. Tim really isn’t trying to “give back” to his family, his church, or his community. He just does it by being who he is. Intrinsically.
The statistics say 1 in 68 are diagnosed with autism, with huge diversity in traits. Families are often broadly impacted… siblings, relatives, neighbors. If you do the math, 15-20% of the US population is directly affected. My brother was fortunate to get help. Many do not.
We are the Autism Society of America. Through nearly 100 local affiliates across the country, we provide lifespan services to those affected by autism, including parent support groups, information and referral services, summer camps, employment and residential advocacy. But we have many pressing needs in order to improve the quality of life for every person affected by autism:
● More affiliates (17 states are not currently covered by Autism Society affiliates)
● Advocacy in Washington – healthcare and education reform puts vital resources at risk
● Enabling supported employment, summer camps, 24/7 information and crisis hotline
As a 5-year National Board Member, I am helping the Autism Society aggressively raise the bar in services and outreach to benefit the nearly 50,000 families navigating their journeys with autism and we need your help! Please consider making a donation and help the Autism Society lead the way for all living with an autism diagnosis.
National Board Member, Autism Society of America