April is Autism Awareness month, and Friday is Autism Awareness Day. About Town has been contacted by quite a few Fort Lee families asking for our help in raising awareness about autism in our community, and because we also live daily humbled by the presence of autism, we are happy to comply.
So much happens at this time of year with the changing of the seasons, and while many Fort Lee families are preparing their children for the opening of baseball season, so many other families in Fort Lee are heroically dealing with this horrible affliction that knows no season. Every single day mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends, silently battle this thing that has robbed them of their child, robbed them of their dreams, robbed them of any sense of comfort.
One mother confided through tears, “If my child had cancer I could at least get medical care or search for treatment that would give me hope for their recovery. At the very least my child would be able to talk to me; tell me about their pain, their frustration and I could provide some kind of emotional comfort. My fifteen-year old can’t talk, can’t tell me when he’s pain. He shows his pain by inflicting physical pain--usually on me. And forget even that. Unless you live with autism you don’t know the intense pain of having your child fight you when all you want to do is hug them. I’m a monster for saying that, right? Wishing my child had cancer instead of autism? Please don’t print my name.”
That’s just one story out of many, but the message is the same. A child who is ever present is always gone. And despite the depth of the diagnosis—whether it be high functioning or otherwise—there’s always a sense of loss associated with the diagnosis.
Part of raising awareness is to put compassion first. It’s important that when you’re in the playground, library or store that if you see a child whose behavior seems out of the ordinary to pause and consider that quite possibly the child might be diagnosed with autism. Perhaps something has triggered a sensory malfunction, and while you see a child screaming uncontrollably and a parent trying to calmly deal, consider that the child is actually in physical pain caused by a squeaky swing, a fluorescent light, the P.A. system in the A&P and consider that they lack the language to communicate their pain.
“I had a woman and her husband come up to me in the playground and tell me that I shouldn’t have had children if I can’t control them when my son was in the middle of a melt-down,” continued the mother who asked to remain anonymous.
About Town is reaching out to every reader and asking that you wear blue on Friday to support Autism Awareness. One Fort Lee family is working on seeing if the lights on the George Washington Bridge can be lit blue to support Autism Awareness. It would be great to have the lights of Fort Lee Borough Hall shine blue also. Such a small gesture would give such great comfort to so many families in town.
Our next-door neighbors in Leonia are hosting a free event called “Zumba for Autism” with famed Zumba instructor Jackie Metzdorf. This event will be held on Wednesday, April 13 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Anna C. Scott Elementary School, on the corner of Fort Lee Road and Highland Street. They are inviting everyone to come dance to the fusion of Latin and International music and have fun while helping to raise awareness for Autism.
Don’ forget to wear Blue for Autism Awareness on Friday!
FORT LEE HIGH SCHOOL TRICKY TRAY
Fort Lee High School’s Academy of Finance, Class of 2011 is sponsoring a Tricky Tray Friday at the High School (enter through the Cafeteria side entrance). Doors open at 6 p.m. and there will be raffles and prizes that include a Nintendo Wii, flat screen T.V., gift certificates and so much more. Admission is $10 and includes a sheet of tickets. You must be at least 18 years old to participate. Fort Lee High School is located at 3000 Lemoine Ave.
FORT LEE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1991 REUNION
Calling all 1991 graduates of Fort Lee High School! There will be a reunion on Saturday, September 17, 2011 at Le Jardin Restaurant on River Road in Edgewater from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. The price is $85 per person and includes a buffet dinner and soft drinks. There will be a cash bar. Please RSVP by September 1st and send checks to: Sorina Goldstein Bard, 4 Sequoia Lane, Dix Hills, NY 11746, cell: (516) 695-5000.