As I searched for something blue today to wear in honour of World Autism Awareness Day, I found myself thinking, what is the point of awareness drives? It's an argument I hear all the time. Trinidad and Tobago, for all its blossoming progressiveness and development, still is 'land of the ignorant' (only in some ways, of course).
Some time ago, there was an increase in "crime walks", where some bereaved schoolchildren or parents or church community, would get together, make some placards, and march around the Savannah, begging the Government to "do something about crime". And as always, there were the naysayers and 'steupsers'; "What good da go do? eh? Allyuh marchin in d hot sun an still yuh fren eh comin back tuh life!" , "Steups, dis government doh care bout we, is best allyuh doh waste allyuh time nah!"
Now, those walks seemed to have died down, but the frustrated sentiment is still there. I can talk a great deal about the frustration with crime, or about the average Trinbagonian's deep misunderstanding about the role of government, but those are conversations for another time. Today, I wanted to focus on awareness, why we do it, what it can achieve.
I wear blue today, or teal tomorrow, or red in July, not because I like to change colours, but because I am acknowedging the effect of these phenomena on the human race. I take it a step further, using social media or word-of-mouth to help raise awareness.
Besides the fact that these awareness initiatives help us personally to process the effect of illness or events on our lives, to feel as though we are doing something, anything, to express our own feelings, they have greater benefits. Yes, wearing blue may not change the fact that autism is gaining prevalence (either through detection or actual occurrence, but that too, is another discussion), or that there is still a need for development in treatment interventions. However, when I tell everyone I know why I am wearing blue, it brings the problem to the forefront of their minds. So they remember to say a prayer, or send good thoughts toward children or adults with autism spectrum disorders. Or they can start their own chain of awareness. Or they can support parents of these individuals, emotionally or financially. Or they can start pressuring officials for new legislation, etc.
Awareness starts the chain of action. In order to prevent or cure a problem, one must first be aware of it. TD Jakes said it well when he explained man's quest for improvement. If you want 'ghetto people' to rise up and participate in their own upliftment, teach them to read. Give them televisions. They will see that other people in the world live differently than they do. They will become aware that another life is possible. Of course, they'll be content with their situation if they don't know that there is more to life. (frustration at awareness but lack of resources, is again another issue for discussion)
Anyway, my point is (please excuse the tangent) that awareness does help. More than we know. In the same way that acknowledgement of a problem is the first step toward a solution, raising awareness is the first step toward acknowledgement. I wear blue today to join the fight to force everyone to acknowledge that autism is real.
To all parents and caregivers of people with autism spectrum disorders, I salute you. Yours is a labour of love, often without recognition. Thank you for allowing these affected angels to experience the highest quality of life possible. God bless you.