There is more autism awareness than ever. So, what comes next?
Hi, I’m Madeline, and I’m a young carer for my autistic and epileptic brother. He is my lifelong best friend, and I have been a young carer since my brother was first diagnosed with autism back in 2006. It has been both the most challenging and most rewarding of times for my entire family. We have homeschooled, traveled the world, and even collaborated by writing books and music as a family. Check us out!
At the beginning of our neurodiverse journey, autism awareness was just beginning. When my brother and I were in public grade school, ours was among the first in our district to offer special needs assistance in classrooms.
Luckily, now, many schools offer these special services to support autistic learners. Similarly, businesses are scheduling sensory-friendly times to use their services, and manufacturers are making products needed to support families. It is great to see that after many years of advocacy and outreach by groups and individuals alike, the world has finally caught a glimpse of what it means to understand autism. But we still have a long way to go!
There is now more evidence of autism awareness than ever, but many neurodiverse families and adults are still living with the struggles of every day neurodiversity acceptance, either because of a lack of understanding or a lack of experience beyond the neurotypical world.
A Need for Change
So, I ask myself…Now that there is a growing percentage of autism awareness among the general public, what comes next? Logically, now that global autism awareness exists, we can assume that our society will actually change its ways, right? Hmmm…but maybe not. While there are some businesses that are catering to the sensory needs of autists, and many people know that autism is an escalating diagnosis, the rate of social acceptance is not scaling with the rise in neurological diagnoses.
According to the CDC’s ADDM Community Report from 2018,
1 in 59 8-year-old children have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
In addition to the challenges faced with autism, the Child Neurology Foundation states,
1 in 6 children will face a neurological diagnosis.
These statistics are staggering!
So, while there are many initiatives that are finally catering to special needs families, the growth rates of neurological challenges are rising faster than these initiatives can keep up. As the name implies, the S in ASD stands for the word spectrum. This gives a clearer idea that everyone diagnosed with autism has their own unique place within that spectrum, and therefore, it is more difficult to cater to those specific needs.
But How Do We Keep Up?
We have to start somewhere. So, we have autism advocates around the world, working hard to make a larger social impact by asking government and corporations to change their systems. However, even after years of advocacy, the neurodiverse community is struggling to get the support they need. A recent example of this is the special education budget cut. While political leaders may see this budget cut as a sign of improvement toward their own specific interests, the reduction of special needs services has a huge, devastating impact on the well-being of neurodiverse families and adults across the nation.
After self-studying business for the past couple of years, I realized that the government and many corporations are hesitant to change their ways because their mindset is based on old solution systems put in place during a time when the public’s understanding of autism awareness was extremely limited. Why change a perfectly functional system that caters to the larger percentage of society? And while I see their viewpoint, our government officials and corporate leaders often do not understand the true struggles of neurodiverse families and adults because they are so far removed from the general public. They would rather not change their systems to accommodate others, because they see no issues at stake.
I wish that more government bodies and organizations aware of this tremendous increase in needs within the neurodiverse community could help create new, modern-day systems to best support these families.
Unfortunately, the action that is being taken is not scaling with the needs of this community, and it is incredibly frustrating for many of us. As an advocate, instead of trying to force these dinosaur-age systems to change, I am working to create a new solution specifically designed to support the many voices in the neurodiverse community.
I am very blessed, as my parents are both very self-reliant people and have raised me on these principals. Despite the neurological challenges we face with my brother’s autism and epilepsy, my parents have always said to me, “Instead of forcing the world to change for you, find a way to change yourself and your world.” This has been one of my greatest lesson over the years. This lesson not only taught me self-responsibility from an early age, but it also sparked my entrepreneurial spirit. As a young adult with more awareness of the world around me, I see the neurodiverse community struggling with well-being, self-esteem issues, and just plain happiness. This is what has driven me to want to do more; to initiate change; to make life better.
From Neurodiversity to Neuro Brilliance
Now that a greater awareness of autism in the public sphere exists, I am ready to take action. Together, my family and I are using our experiences as a neurodiverse family and creative team to launch Neuro Brilliant Magazine - an upcoming digital magazine where the neurodiverse community can share their voice, help others understand their perspectives, gain support, and build deeper connections with their loved ones.
Neuro Brilliant Magazine will be a curator of information and resources that have all been proven valuable by real families living with autism and other special needs individuals in their own lives, not just through organizations with bright logos and colorful swag. The neurodiverse community knows what needs to happen in order to make positive change. We are here to listen, offer support, and create new and open dialogue to foster happier lives within the neurodiverse community.
We will be showcasing the fact that just because neurodiverse people think differently and experience life from a different perspective, it doesn’t change the fact that they are just as important as everyone else. There is a lot of potential for neurodiverse creators to transform their neurodiversity into neuro brilliance, if they can just have a strong and supportive platform and community of support.
Instead of waiting for change to happen, we are paving the way for change by providing the neurodiverse community with stories, strategies, and solutions that focus on positive growth and empowerment, while also offering them a platform to share their voices and ideas for solutions as well.
Advocacy was Then…Change is NOW!
While autism advocacy has proven to be effective in many cases over the years, I am afraid now advocacy simply isn’t enough anymore, especially based on the increase in neurological diagnosis. Now is the time for lasting change, and there are other ways beyond advocacy to instill these positive changes to our society.
By collecting a diverse set of ideas from within the community all on one platform, we are connecting everyone together with the goal of creating real and applicable solutions that will be the most effective for balancing other families’ lives with neurodiversity at home and beyond.
If people impacted by special needs take responsibility for creating a better world for our neurodiverse friends, family, and loved ones, then we will no longer need the dinosaur-age systems to survive. Why? Because we will have our own support systems in place, and together we will all be stronger!
I am truly grateful to be a member of the neurodiverse community and to see the evolution of the group over the past decade. Now, I see an opportunity for change, and I believe that the best change starts by helping families and carers find working solutions to everyday issues.
Are YOU with US?
Are you tired of the slow rate of social change and looking to make a positive impact within the neurodiverse community? Awesome! Join us on our mission to help empower special needs families and adults as we create a new, all-inclusive publication family.
Share your stories, struggles, strategies, and solutions with us, for an opportunity to be featured in the magazine.
You can also contribute by sharing your thoughts about this post or sharing it with other neurodiverse families.
This article is written by Madeline Mink, member of The Saturn Creative Team.
Remainder of images are taken by The Saturn Creative Team or Cris Stroud.