Another month gone
Autism Awareness Month came and went without much publicity. I’m not surprised. The economy is still reeling and people are still losing jobs, even if it isn’t at the rate we saw in the first quarter of the year. Chances are, the economy and employment will dominate headlines for the remainder of the year, unless H1N1 has something to say about it. The prevalence of the new flu virus pushed everything else aside this week as 24-hour cable news networks saturated their coverage with something humans couldn’t defend themselves against.
There was token coverage at the beginning of April, with the U.N. declaring April 2nd World Autism Awareness Day last year. I’m not surprised; I don’t see a shift to social issues being discussed in the media until the economy recovers. I wouldn’t call it ignorance. There were quite a few stories in ’07 and ’08 before the Olympics and Presidential election. One theory is that reporters and networks can’t find anything newsworthy. Several stories revisited the problems every autistic person and relative face without much progress in finding the answers (the vaccine controversy still exists despite mounting evidence to the contrary and little empirical evidence to support it). Discoveries remain in the early stages. There are still few concrete facts to go off of. There’s still no objective test to identify autism.
Perhaps they’ll come with time. In a way, the mellow stance on autism coverage in April was beneficial. People went into panic mode after heavy coverage on H1N1, with worriers crowding emergency rooms because they thought a cough and/or eating pork meant they would be infected with swine flu. There are similar concerns with the autism community that children are being diagnosed who don’t necessarily have autism. Americans often have a problem with pack mentality. Everybody follows what everyone else is doing without taking some time to inform themselves. There are too many variables to point fingers (some blame the media, some blame fear tactics, the list goes on), but it would make for a very worthwhile social experiment. A major autism breakthrough should warrant coverage, but leaving it alone when there isn’t much to talk about was the best thing news outlets could do.
Now the wait for 2010 begins.