The Canonical Community Team is running a week long charity fundraising drive, capped by a 24-hour live work hangout. We all chose a different charity, and will be promoting it and encouraging donations during the week. I chose to support the Autism Research Trust, and wanted to share a little bit about why.
Those in the open source community, or who are computer scientists, engineers or programmers, will be no strangers to Autism. Autism, and it’s associated spectrum, affect 1 out of every 88 children according to a recent study. In our geek community, the number is likely even higher than that.
Many of you may notice my blog’s banner, or read the post from when I put it up. When my first child was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with something called PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified), which is basically the catch-all “we don’t really know what’s wrong” category in the Autism spectrum. We were told this by a neurologist who then left the room without explaining what it was, what it would mean for our son, or what we were supposed to do about it. It was scary as hell.
What made things worse is that there is very little that anybody actually knows about Autism. Nobody knows what it actually is, or what causes it. There is no known cure or medicine to treat it. Our son needed our help, and we literally didn’t know how to give it. When he turned 3 years old he could speak only a handful of words. He was smart though, he seemed to understand everything, but we couldn’t communicate with him, or him with us. It was extremely frustrating for everyone.
The only thing that’s been proven to help children with Autism is early intervention. We were lucky, he was diagnosed at a much younger age than most kids. We found local speech and occupational therapy centers, and for over a year he went to these 3-4 times a week. Local organizations like Autism Speaks and the Central Florida Autism Institute helped us find what worked for him, because every child is different.
Early intervention has given our son his future back. He still struggles with the effects of Autism, it doesn’t ever go away, but he’s learned how to work around it, and we’ve learned how to work around it. That is why I have chosen Autism research as my charity for the Community Team 24-hour marathon, because there are still millions of children who need this intervention, and millions of parents struggling to understand how to help them. And every dollar, pound or euro you give is likely to change somebody’s life.