(Posted April 29, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
To promote autism awareness, Nick Brown did something he’s never done before: step up to a microphone to talk to an audience.
The London High School senior made his public speaking debut at the April 21 London city council meeting. On the agenda was a proclamation declaring April as National Autism Awareness Month in London.
In his address to council, Nick explained that he plays basketball, volleyball, track and golf with the Special Olympics program coordinated by the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities. He and his teammates recently played an Autism Awareness volleyball game against members of the London fire and police departments.
About council’s proclamation, Nick said, “I want to thank you for helping to raise awareness of autism. It is important to many people in London, which includes the people who have it and their families and friends. The more people who understand autism will mean a better life for everyone.”
Nick attended the council meeting with members of his family, including his father, Darryl Brown, who recently reached out to city officials and to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office about free autism awareness training available to fire fighters, paramedics, police and other first responders.
“It is important for those with autism or any type of intellectual developmental disabilities to know that first responders are there to help them,” Brown said, “and equally important for first responders to recognize and understand certain behaviors can be attributed to their medical conditions and not simply non-compliance or possibly drug or alcohol impairment.”
London’s first responders and the Sheriff’s Office have agreed to add the autism awareness training to their regimens, Brown said.
“I see this first responder training as a great opportunity and one that we can use as a springboard to build relationships and the rapport necessary to allow all to have a better understanding of how to deal with each other in emergency type situations and society as a whole,” Brown said.
He noted that autism is being diagnosed in one in 68 children across the United States. A number of residents in London and the county, along with their families, deal with the impact every day. A total of 42 students with autism attend the London and Madison-Plains school districts. Several adults with autism, as well as adults and children with other types of intellectual development disabilities, call the community home.
“I truly believe success is measured not simply by one’s ability to overcome their own obstacles but the willingness to help others overcome their obstacles and to help them become the best they can be,” Brown said. “And I see the willingness of city leaders to address this issue through the proclamations to help raise awareness and to participate in the training as a true reflection of this value.”
The following is an excerpt from the proclamation passed by city council: “Autism is a developmental disorder affecting the social, communication and behavioral skills of those affected by it. While there is no cure for autism, it is well documented that if individuals with autism receive early and intensive treatment throughout their lives, they lead significantly improved lives. Individuals with autism often require a lifetime of specialized and community support services to ensure their health and safety and to support families’ resilience as they manage the psychological and financial burders autism can present.”