Autism shows us that we are all the same. All families want the same things for their children. Rich or poor, across every culture and faith, we all want our kids to get better and live happy lives.
When I got into autism after my son was diagnosed, I saw how parents, who knew nothing about autism, were left to get therapy and medical services on their own. Doctors rarely help, services the kids are legally entitled to may be hidden, and educators don’t give you all the options. Six months into being an autism mom, I wrote a newspaper article that improved the way many California kids got services. I met a young Afghani girl flapping her hands by a parking lot, and helped the family obtain free services. Her mom said her autism would have caused her to be killed if they stayed in Afghanistan. Then I aided an Egyptian family who paid 7 thousand per month for their son’s special school and travelled to the US for medical treatment. These moments showed me that autism is hard all over.
Although services in the US are not perfect, they are much better than most countries, although each state is different and some deliberately deny services. American kids do have free or low-cost access to some autism services like school-based education, speech and behavioral therapies, respite (a few hours of specialized babysitting so parents can get a break from 24-hour caretaking), adult housing and a few more. Some countries offer excellent services for disabled kids and adults. Others offer almost nothing. That’s when you see kids caged or tied to a tree so their parents can work or sleep. As the autism rate rises globally (along with modern lifestyles, industrialization and greater awareness), families everywhere need more help.
While I still advise typical US families, finding camel milk in 2005 and sharing how it helped my son’s autism symptoms and overall health increased my contact with people from diverse groups. American Gypsies, US Somalis, Amish, Mennonite, Christian homeschoolers, medical professionals, scientists, camel professionals, plus people from just about every country in the world find me. Many of these cultures traditionally don’t talk much about autism or disability. I did a live 3-hour call-in show for the American Gypsies and they were so appreciative and eager to learn about diet, health, finding reliable educational and medical treatment options. It’s the same old story everywhere: people don’t know what to do or whom to trust. They need help badly. Luckily, progress is being made in many places. I’ve seen very good autism awareness signs in the UAE (one cautioned readers not to judge parents of a misbehaving child in case it’s autism) that I’ve never seen in the US. In Dubai, parents, professionals and media turned out at my speaking events to learn more. At their World Autism Awareness Day event some adorable typical kids asked me about autism for a class project.
Further afield, some autism fathers from India contacted me and with the help of many people, including the Raika camel herder caste, we helped them set up a new camel milk supply chain for autism families. It’s very exciting to see the families working so hard and the kids improving and getting a healthy milk option. Telling a Hindu family to remove cow milk from their autistic kid’s diet is quite radical, but I link them to other families who help them adjust their complex recipes.
It seems autism known no bounds. Mongolia, Cypress, African countries, Singapore, Indonesia, England, The Middle East, Australia, Spain–so many people spring to my mind. Having a child with autism makes you feel like no one cares. And most people really don’t. But some broad-minded people know that humans are all the same and your child is special too. They might be from the US, from Kenya or Pakistan. They might be wealthy or they may be nearly broke. But many will help if they’re asked. Reach out and no matter where you are, someone, somewhere, just might reach back.