For World Autism Awareness Day, Consider ‘The Accidental Teacher’

by Phillip Witteveen on April 2, 2014

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According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one in 68 American children fall on the Autism spectrum, a category of developmental brain disorders with a broad array of symptoms. These symptoms can include difficulty with social interaction, and a tendency toward repetitive behaviors; they vary in severity from person to person, and may be co-morbid other medical conditions.  Since the 1970s, April has been National Autism Awareness Month—a month to raise awareness about the disability, and celebrate the autistic community. At its simplest, it’s an invitation to start a talking, share stories, and counteract stigma. April 2 marks World Autism Awareness Day.

For Annie Lubliner Lehmann, her autistic son Jonah was a source of insight. In her memoir, The Accidental Teacher: Lessons from My Silent Son, she focuses on Jonah’s childhood in its aspects of self-discovery—not dysfunction. “More than two decades of having Jonah in my life has put me at a new vantage point,” writes Lehmenn. “Facing adversity, I have learned, no matter what form it takes, breeds its own brand of wisdom”

For people across the globe, National Autism Awareness Month is a time to get engaged: in conversation, affiliation, and fundraising efforts. Over two hundred college campuses across the United States (including the University of Michigan) are participating in Autism Awareness Month. Iconic landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Willis Tower, and over one hundred other airports, bridges, museums and other buildings will be lit up in bright blue as part of a campaign initiated by Autism Speaks, an autism research organization.

For more information on autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), visit autismspeaks.org. And for a moving account of one family’s experience with an autistic child, read Annie Lehmann’s The Accidental Teacher.

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