Do you know what autism is? Calvary Christian Academy Bible teacher Johnny Crank came face to face with autism 8 years ago when his son, Max, was diagnosed with autism. After adopting triplets, Crank and his wife Jamie knew their task would be challenging, for they were already parents of triplets (Max included).
From the beginning, they noticed a difference in Max’s behavior. At age three, his verbal communication spiraled down. When he turned four, the diagnosis did not hit Crank nor his wife with surprise. rather it was a relief. With the diagnosis, Max’s behavior was better understood.
As the years went by, Crank became more understanding of other people. Prior to his son’s diagnosis, Crank “lumped disabilities in one category.” From an outsider’s perspective, one can misjudge the behavior of those dealing with autism. Living daily with his son, he now sees “every type of disability more clearly.” Everyone going through autism has their own story. No two people are the same. Today, this father of six does not have a boring life. Crank said, “I’m challenged with patience every single day.”
So what is autism? The American Psychological Association defines it as “the most severe developmental disability.” According to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, there is an estimate of about 1 in 68 children who have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The disorder is characterized by significant impairments in social interaction and communication, highly repetitive behavior, and strong resistance to change.
Estimates also suggest that ASD is about 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189). In Max’s case, although he is a triplet, his two sisters did not get the disability.
April has been designated as Autism Awareness Month, and Crank agrees that autism awareness has greatly expanded in the last decade. He encourages people not to be afraid to ask questions and reach out to those with more insight or experience on autism and other disabilities. Crank said, “People need to be more patient,” and he added, “We are quick to judge people.”
Through his son, Crank like many other parents or friends of those with autism, has the opportunity to “have a very unique perspective on life” through his son’s eyes. “Max is a very sweet boy, but he’s got his quirks. They can be misunderstood as being rude. It emphasizes the fact that we need to be patient with each other.” Along with Max, one can venture to say that society as a whole has its quirks. The way we deal with our individuality is what brings progress and unity to our community.
Crank has learned to see each people individually and encourages others to do the same. “I have conversations with people on a weekly basis who don’t understand autism. I try to help people understand it as much as I can,” said Crank. He is thankful to have such a helpful community in Calvary Christian Academy’s special needs program. Prior to attending CCA’s Varying Exceptionalities (VE) program, Crank’s triplets struggled in a regular classroom setting. The VE program has given Crank’s children a unique scope of individualized attention and details. “It’s good knowing your kids are in a place where they are understood,” he said.
On April 2, World Autism Awareness Day, an event initiated in 2008 by the UN, will be celebrating their 9th anniversary. Organizations like Autism Speaks, will be holding fundraisers and events that raise awareness around the world. Last month, the Palm Beach Walk, initiated by South Florida Ford Dealers, successfully raised $1,400 to support research and to help fund services. The Power of One March, a march that unifies the autism awareness community in Washington D.C., will also be held on World Autism Awareness Day and plans on gathering in the US Capitol and march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the ellipse in front of the White House. Registration is found at www.thepowerofonemarch.org.
Let this ninth anniversary inspire you to investigate autism and other disabilities. Let events like Autism Awareness Day encourage you to participate in raising funds and becoming closer to your community. Let us keep the story of Max Crank and his family, a family with the privilege of living and viewing the world through a unique lens, near in our hearts. You never know what you might learn and who you’ll inspire to continue the push for awareness and understanding.
Estefania Hernandez is a student at Calvary Christian Academy and a Good News intern. You can reach her at [email protected].