Monday, November 8, 2010

Awareness Overload!!

Every month in Australia we are bombarded with days of awareness or weeks of awareness, or both, and November is no different. This month so far we have had Autism Awareness Day, Legacy Week, Grandparents Day and the entire month of Movember. This week we will have Remembrance Day on the 11th of the 11th at 11a.m. And that's all in the first two weeks of the month.

What I was wondering about all of these special days is the relevance to the majority and whether or not people are even noticing them, celebrating the day or are they simply ignoring them all? Should we just concentrate on the major holidays and forget all of these extra little blimps in the year or are they worth keeping?

Let me concentrate on just the ones mentioned above. Autism Awareness Day. Is it relevant to the majority? Well, according to those in the know, approximately 3 students in each classroom fall under the Autism Spectrum, although the real number is hard to ascertain due to lack of diagnosis and is possibly up to 5. That's in EVERY classroom. On it's own it may not seem like much but if you take that statistic outside the class environment and consider that each classroom holds approximately 25 students (on average), then almost one fifth, or 15-20% of our kids have autistic traits. Now add all of the parents, extended families and siblings to the numbers. These are also affected by the diagnosis and have to adjust many things in their lives to compensate.

All in all, this is an issue that affects large numbers within the population, however those without Autism in the family are not just unfamiliar with the diagnosis but can occasionally be unkind or impatient when confronted by someone who is. This is why Autism Awareness Day is so important. It highlights the need for people to practice understanding, congratulates the parents for their sometimes very difficult job and gives those falling in the spectrum a day to shine.

Grandparents Day is new to us, this year was the first one ever celebrated. I completely forgot until one of our Grandparents reminded me, but hopefully next year I will be ready for it. It's a great opportunity to thank those with such a large influence in our lives for their contribution. There is one group of Grandparents who badly need to be given an extra special thank you, from all of us.

Too many grandparents are forgoing their retirement time, when they should be taking it easy and travelling to places they have always wanted to see but never had the time. Instead, they are becoming full time child care for their grandchildren while their children continue in their chosen careers. The problems with this are many and varied. Isolation, lack of support both emotionally and financially and exhaustion are just a few of the issues facing these exceedingly generous individuals. Ask them if they would like to stop however, and plenty would say no. They enjoy the contact with their grandkids, love having purpose to their day and feel valued and needed.

They do miss out on a lot though. The isolation is perhaps the hardest part and several new organisations such as the Grandparents Support Group are working hard to change that. Working in similar ways to a mother's group or Playgroup, they are encouraging interaction and involvement between others in similar situations and this is an essential process for which those facilitating should be rewarded.

There are many Grandparents who are not carers. They are there for guidance, encourage our children to learn better manners, teach us more about our past, pass down recipes and skills and are generally an invaluable asset to the family. For this reason alone they should be acknowledged and celebrated.

Legacy Week and Remembrance Day are different but celebrate a similar portion of the population. Remembering all those who have played their part in keeping our country free and the price they paid for achieving that by taking just one minute out of every year to stand still and think is not even close to feeling like enough, but it's certainly not a hardship. Having a week to re-invigorate the community spirit and encourage donations, while highlighting the essential work that Legacy do is also no hardship and a fantastic cause. Legacy works tirelessly to support those left behind in every way possible and their good work is attributed to saving lives, houses and families every single year.

These days and weeks should never be underestimated or disregarded.They are both of vital importance to our past, our present and our future.

Lastly, we have Movember, an entire month dedicated to smooth faced gentlemen and the quest to grow the most atrocious hairy specimen located on the upper lip. The contest is fierce, the cash flow it generates is large and the's mental and physical health. Most specifically depression and prostate cancer. Two of the biggest killers of men and the easiest to diagnose and treat. Men have ignored these two illnesses for far too long and the awareness and resources that this initiative bring to the cause are unparalleled and appear to be working.

Women have turned the world pink for breast cancer, now basketball players and cricketers are sporting pink outfits for the cause and men have encouraged this. Women need to encourage their partners participation in Movember, or if the prospect of your mate wearing a hairy caterpillar on his face is too much for you......spend up big instead and donate to the cause.

So, another day....probably another Awareness Day. Are they important? Yes they are. Should we keep them? Yes we should. They are all significant in their own right and deserve our attention, but now it's time to stop. It's enough thinking required, enough donations, enough diary obligations. Take it from me....we are aware!!

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