A Little Less Ignorant and Much Richer for it

by Admin on March 12, 2011

“Quick, turn on the news!”

That’s what the voice on the other end of my phone directed me to do. It was January 8th, a Saturday morning, and I was just completing a therapy session with a client.

“Gabrielle Giffords has been shot!” Marilyn said painfully. “She was shot in the head and they don’t think she is going to make it.”

What occurred after that has been well documented and will continue to be for months and years. However, as we all know, out of tragedy often comes miracles. Many of them are relatively small, but often far reaching.

This is one of those.

The following Monday, I received another call. “Uncle Ed, this is your favorite niece.”

I immediately recognized the voice of my little redheaded, half-Scotish, half-Irish, niece from Indiana. I had not heard that voice, or seen that face for many years…too many years. For reasons known to no one, Nancy’s father, my brother, and I had not be in communication for a very long time.

“How are you?” she asked. “I can’t believe I’m talking to you.”

“Nancy?”

“Yes! A lady at your work gave me your number. I just had to talk to you. Mom and I were talking about how horrible the shooting was in Tucson and we thought of you because you retired from the Tucson Police Department. What a tragedy.”

I agreed and we talked a bit more about the incident asking questions which did not have answers. Nancy infromed me she was teaching high school in Indianapolis and with her husband, Matt, had three children – ages 8, 2, and 1. She also informed me that her oldest, Avery, was autistic.

Autistic. Autism. What is that? I should know what autism is. Afterall, I’ve been a healthcare professional for nearly twenty years. I was truly embarrassed.

I was ignorant. Merriam-Webster defines ignorant as destitute of knowledge or education; or lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified. I vowed that day I may be ignorant to other issues, but autism would no longer be one. I realized then that autism is real…and so are the children.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause for autism, but increased awareness and funding can help families today.

In December 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 110 births in the United States and almost 1 in 70 boys.

We as a nation must consider how to serve these families facing a lifetime of supports for their children. Currently, the Autism Society estimates that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million, and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism.

As you can see, autism has become very personal to me. I know Nancy and Matt have not been alone in their support and caring for Avery, but now they have a whole new train of advocacy … and an Uncle that is ignorant of one less thing.

I have family back in my life now. A much larger family than I ever imagined.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nancy Campbell March 13, 2011 at 11:56 am

Wow — again thank you! It is awesome to have family and friends that care enough to support our efforts in not only helping Avery, but all individuals and families who live with Autism each day. As Avery said this morning “sweet”!

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