Thursday, April 05, 2007

Autism Awareness Month Coincides with Uptick in National Media Coverage

Maybe it was the 14-state study published by the Centers for Disease Control that shows the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder cases is 1 in 150 children. Maybe recent news reports about the interesting research into the origins of autism, including genetic traits and environmental triggers have an influence. Maybe the awareness and advocacy efforts of groups big and small have made a dent in the national consciousness. Or maybe it's simply that everyone -- including the producers and editors who work at national media outlets -- knows a family affected by autism and "Autism Awareness Month" lends a good reason to cover the issue with an emphasis on explaining what autism is, how it's diagnosed and the issues families face.

Among the pieces this week:

* National Public Radio on April 5 broadcast a brief report about the Interactive Autism Network, a new program at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, to connect parents to information about research into autism spectrum disorders and how they may be able to participate.

The report preceded a profile of Eunice Kennedy Shriver who founded the Special Olympics and who has been a lifelong advocate for people with cognitive disabilities. The report, which you can find here, conveys one person's indefatigable commitment to achieving respect and acceptance for people with disabilities. Here's a short excerpt from the piece:

Every year, Shriver brings a parent of a disabled child and someone who works in disabilities to Washington. They work on Capitol Hill for the year, then most go back to their states, where they have become a new generation of leaders.

Earlier this month, more than three dozen former Kennedy Fellows gathered in the ballroom of a Washington hotel to hold their first-ever reunion. There was a sense in the room that this might be a last chance to honor Shriver. She has been hospitalized several times; two years ago she had a small stroke.

Shriver stepped carefully to the podium. When she got there, she made clear that she will keep fighting for people with intellectual disabilities.

"We've got to be so proud of what our special friends do and their future," said Shriver, "Their possibility of really bringing to the world something that really resembles peace and hope and faith and love – that's what they can do. And we're so proud of them. And we want to keep going all the time, the next 20 years. I'm going. You come with me?"

* ABC News has broadcast several pieces this week. One well-done piece from the April 4 edition of "Nightline" highlights the social problems and bullying faced by young people -- a sophomore at Ramapo College in New Jersey, and an adolescent in Millburn, N.J., Middle School -- growing up with Asperger's syndrome, and the efforts that they and educators are making to form social relationships. You can see a video version of the story here, and a text version of the story here.

Another piece from "Good Morning America" discusses how to recognize the signs of young children with autism. This video segment (see it here) takes less than two minutes, but vividly shows an infant, alert at 6 months, turns into a shy one year old and then a two year old who can't attend to someone calling his name or seeking his attention.

* The Oprah Winfrey Show on April 5 dedicated an hour to "The Faces of Autism," a program that was scheduled to include clips from the Autism Speaks video "Autism Every Day," as well as a pediatrician who is mother to two sons with autism spectrum disorders. For more on the show, see this website.

We should expect more programs to come this month. If you find a particularly interesting broadcast or report related to autism, you can share a comment here or send me an e-mail at michaelsgoldberg AT yahoo DOT com.

Also see:

Nick News Focuses on Autism April 22

MTV's "True Life" Features Teens with Autism

Very Early Diagnosis Subject of "60 Minutes" Story

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