April is National Autism Awareness Month. There are so many diseases and disorders that it’s impossible to highlight them all. Usually I choose to focus on diseases and issues that have directly affected people close to me, and often I like to bring attention to conditions that aren’t well-known, or if well-known, not well understood.
No one in my family has experienced autism. However, it is definitely poorly understood by most people, and I’ve seen friends deal with autism in their families. There are several lovely families in my church who have children who fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. In many ways, children with autism remind me of elderly persons with dementia.
Since I cared for both my father and my husband with Alzheimer’s, I am very familiar with dementia. I see many similarities between dementia and autism.
- In most cases, the cause of the disorder is not known.
- As one father I know describes his son, individuals with dementia and autism are “wired differently.”
- Often, the children or adults can’t describe what they are feeling, so they act out in ways that others may think are simply bad behaviors, when, in fact, the behaviors are in response to real pain, needs, or fears.
- Individuals with autism and dementia are often treated rudely or thoughtlessly by those who don’t understand that it is the disorder/disease, not the person, that is acting in a way deemed inappropriate.
- Children with autism and adults with dementia are human beings, created by a loving God in His image, and deserve care, compassion, and respect.
If you don’t know much about autism, April is an excellent time to learn.
O HEAVENLY Father, we beseech thee to have mercy upon all thy children who are “wired differently.” Surround them with families and friends who are patient and understanding and give the children and their loved ones thy peace that passes understanding; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.