I despise this time of year, with the overwhelming flood of social media posts about the blue pumpkins for autism awareness. It infuriates me to see these well-intentioned individuals sharing these memes, blissfully unaware of the realities and challenges faced by those with disabilities. It angers me because I know firsthand the immense impact a disability can have on a person and their loved ones. The empty gestures and shallow awareness do nothing to address the true struggles and complexities that individuals and families affected by autism face every single day. This time of year serves as a painful reminder of society’s superficial understanding of disabilities and the desperate need for genuine inclusivity and support.
There is an absolute multitude of reasons why children may struggle with speech. Autism represents just one among the plethora of disabilities that can impede verbal communication. Consider conditions like cerebral palsy, birth-induced stroke, oral apraxia, as well as various anxiety disorders, and the list continues indefinitely. Astonishingly, the CDC reports that a staggering 17% of the population is affected by some form of developmental disability. While I do not possess the precise figure of those who are unable to speak, these basic statistics are more than enough to demonstrate that it is highly likely for a child with speech difficulties to appear at your doorstep or cross paths with you during a trunk-or-treat event.
With a world that is literally on fire, just be kind. Include everyone.