Writer’s Block: The Prison of Autism

writers-blockby Corinne Wnek

During this time when we are besieged with politicians running for one thing or another, it is refreshing to know that other people are also running, not for elected office, but toward the finish line. All over the country, runners of every kind are coming out this month to sprint, walk or run their buns off to support research on a disorder that is every bit as disabling as heart disease. They run to conquer autism, a prison of mystery and isolation.

Not much is known about this disorder except it usually manifests itself in early childhood. More boys are apt to be autistic than girls and one in ninety children born will have autism in one form or another. There is no’one size fits all’ characteristics with autistic children. But we do know that some who are diagnosed with autism are extremely bright.

Remember “Rain Man”, the movie with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise? Check it out to see one type of autism, the savant syndrome. Dustin Hoffman is both brilliant and infantile in his prison of order and regularity. His spectacular ability to calculate numbers is as mind-numbing as his inability to process day to day information.

Autism is thought of as being ‘on a spectrum’. Like the colors in a rainbow, but not as pretty, there are many forms and degrees of symptoms ranging from non-communicative children to those who do communicate but lack the most basic social skills.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a half marathon fundraiser down in Disneyworld, sponsored by Autism Speaks, the mother ship for autism research and education. My daughter, along with ten thousand other runners from all over the country, ran to lend their voice in support of understanding this disorder which keeps human life from really living.

To see thousands of senior citizens, teenagers and those with middle-age spread show up in Halloween costumes to run this race for others was more impressive than watching Mickey Mouse himself leading the charge. Best of all, there were no losers in this race.

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