Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Autism Challenge

Austism is a challenge faced by millions of people, a challenge of tremendous significance to our collective futures, a challenge that is essentially of pandemic proportions, the challenge posed by the condition known as Autism.

Autism, a word that officially became part of my family's life in February of 2008, with the "diagnosis" of our 3 year old son. It truly shook our family to it's very core.

While the condition is mentioned fairly often today, there is very little media discussion about the latest "facts". A special thanks goes out to a terrific friend and mentor for his research and support.

For your contextual knowledge, please review the following:

  • Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime.
  • It is a part of disorders known as the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The spectrum has broad ranges across multiple varieties.
  • Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls.
  • Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also often associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors.
  • More children will be diagnosed with Autism this year than AIDS, diabetes, and cancer COMBINED. A recommended and highly effective treatment for children diagnosed with Autism is a strict Gluten and Casein-free (GFCF) diet.
  • A leading theory is that individuals with Autism have sustained damage to the intestine ("leaky gut") thus prohibiting Gluten and Casein from being digested normally. Gluten and Casein form substances that act like opiates in their bodies. "Leaky Gut" causes immediate release through the intestinal wall where Gluten and Casein travel immediately to the brain.
  • These opiates dramatically affect the individuals behavior.
  • The latest statistics show that 1 in 110 children will be diagnosed with Autism. (Note: there are calculations that say 1 in 93) 1 in 70 boys will be diagnosed. (Note: there are calculations that say 1 in 53) A new case will be diagnosed almost every 20 minutes.
  • Autism costs the United States over $35 billion per year, a figure expected to increase significantly in the next decade.
  • There has been a 600% increase in the last two decades. (Yes, 600%)

The causes of Autism are a source of much debate and controversy. It is indeed a very complex puzzle with theories ranging from genetics to vaccines to the withholding of parental affection. I have my own opinion on a correlation between vaccines and the issue.

There is not a documented and validated "cure". However, consistent therapy and other nutritional actions can have a sustainable impact.

The experience with my son has taught me many things about life, about how to be a better father, how to enable greatness for my children, how to be a stronger leader for my family, how to face a considerable challenge.

The following comments are truly "Lessons From My Son":

When faced with a challenge, Your FAITH will be rewarded - God has a way of sending messages to us when we least expect them. For about 6 months after the diagnosis, we experienced the full range of emotions - denial, sadness, anger, confusion, calm, etc. However, we held strong to our belief in The Creator. Our Faith was ultimately reward when our son painted this image in school... as a 3.5 YEAR OLD. It was a "gift" from our son to his loving parents and to the world.

It was inspired by the Great Spirit as a message that our son was brilliant, that the labels of society were irrelevant, that we were making progress, and that our boy's future was bright. A special "Guardian" from above would ensure our son's greatness. An amazing friend once told me to see these special moments as "trophies" given to us by The Father in recognition for our faith and good works.

I have seen every point of progress, every word spoken, every hug, every sign from above as a Trophy, something to always be cherished and be thankful for. Please see the positive moments in your life as fuel for achieving YOUR destiny. When faced with a challenge, Avoid making comparisons to others, focus on YOUR situation - Many of us look at the "good fortune" of others when we have a roadblock.

These comparisons only serve to degrade our spirits and ultimately, take away from the greatness ahead of us. We need to be happy for others while focusing on our own situation and actions. My family was comfortable with our son's glorious gifts and stayed relentlessly focused on his progress. When faced with a challenge, remember that "Your resolve is greater than your circumstances".

Do not ever underestimate your capacity to withstand tough times or your potential to rise above the circumstances. Draw upon your self-confidence as well as those that you love to give you courage. Lao Tzu's quote is timeless - "Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." Since we were fighting for our son's future, for the legacy of our family, we leaned into multiple therapies that methodically addressed our son's issues, step by step. His therapists have been incredible. The supplements have made a difference. My wife has been an amazing rock for the family. So how can you help in the movement to address Autism? There are several ways for you to make a difference.

Build Your Knowledge - Ensure that you are well versed on the topic. Share your insights with others, especially those with young children or about to have a child. "Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew" by Ellen Notbohm is a 108 page summary that is very powerful.

Be A Resource- If you know someone with a child that has Autism, be there for them. Let them know that you care by providing moral support, praying for them, and sharing in the life of their child. My wife and I were blessed to have family and friends that wrapped their arm's around both of our boys. On a personal note, my parents and brothers have made a big difference for me in this journey. Also, realize that there are many adolescents and young adults that are on the Autism spectrum. Many of them are driving forward courageously thru their challenge and leveraging their strengths. These young people will positively impact the future of our world. If you know of one, support him/her to achieve their dreams. We will all be enriched.

Don't Judge Behavior - There have been times when my son has acted out in public against his affliction. Some people have looked at us with an understanding glance while others were obviously judging my child. They made themselves look incredibly insensitive. The old biblical saying that warns against judging until we have "walked a mile in a person's shoes" truly does apply in these instances - trust me.

Serve As An Advocate - Please ensure that our school boards, our elected officials, and our community leaders are committed to improving the effectiveness of our school systems on this topic. Too many children are marginalized in systems that don't understand their challenges or appreciate their gifts. We have been blessed that every one of our son's teachers has been amazing. However as an additional challenge, there are still many states and insurance companies that provide sub-optimal benefits support. Please push for autism insurance reform legislation with your representatives.

Donate Money To The Cause - There are dire financial needs in the efforts to solve the Autism puzzle. The funds allocated for Autism Research by our government have ranged from 80-120 MM (approximately.3% of the National Institute of Health budget) dollars a year with about another 45-50MM driven by significant efforts by private agencies. Certainly, large amounts of money but not enough to address an issues of these staggering proportions (remember 1 in 110 children). If you are inspired to donate, there are terrific organizations like The Thoughtful House, Autism Speaks, and the Autism Research Institute that are making great progress. My family has been blessed to have had the financial resources to support our son. However, there are so many that can't provide the support necessary for their children.

The cause needs your help. Thank you for your time and attention. Our son is progressing by leaps and bounds as he is now in grade school.

Angel Rodriguez is a business leader. Angel works as a Senior VP at United Surgical Partners out of Dallas, TX. He blogs regularly on his business and personal blog. Subscribe today by visiting Angel Rodriguez today at http://www.angelrodriguez.us

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