Contributed by: Priscelina Shearon
April is Autism Awareness Month – a time to educate your community, spread autism awareness, promote inclusion and acceptance in the classroom, and Light It Up Blue! Spreading autism awareness in schools is a great way to celebrate April and promote inclusion and acceptance in the classroom and beyond.
Since the beginning of Autism Awareness Month in April 1970, autism has become the fastest growing developmental disability in the world, with the diagnosis rate of children with autism increasing from 1 in every 2000 children in the 1970s and 1980s to 1 in every 68 children today. What has caused this growth? It has been the increase in awareness, with the inception of World Autism Day. April 2 kicks off a month of events. This year will mark the tenth annual World Autism Awareness Day with the theme of “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination.”
The Autism Society was founded in 1965 by Bernard Rimland, Ph.D. His book, Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior, was written in late 1964 and was one of the first of its kind. In 1968, Ruth Sullivan, Ph.D., became the organization’s first elected president. Over the last 40 years, the Society has grown from a handful of parents into the leading source of information, research, reference and support on the autism spectrum. The Autism Society is the oldest and largest grassroots organization within the autism community.
The puzzle ribbon was adopted in 1999 as the universal sign of autism awareness. Although this image is a trademark of the Autism Society, the organization has granted use to other non-profit organizations in order to demonstrate unity and advance a universal mission as opposed to any individually held interests or promotion of a single organization.
The puzzle pattern reflects the complexity of the autism spectrum. The different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope. Hope that through increased awareness of autism, early intervention, and access to appropriate services and support, people with autism will lead full lives and be able to interact with the world on the own terms.
If you are new to Autism Awareness Month, here are a few goals set by The Organization of Autism Research to help you get started. All of these ideas can be personalized to fit your community and your child’s school. As you become more comfortable, you can organize a walk for autism awareness in your community which could culminate in an Autism Awareness Rally.
OAR provides the tools needed to explain what autism means in a friendly and age-appropriate way. This year, OAR aims to impact 6,000 students through the Kit for Kids program and Autism Tuned In with the “What’s Up with Nick?” story.
– Order your Kit for Kids set and start an autism peer education initiative
– Educators! Sign your students up for Autism Tuned In
– Anyone can volunteer as a Youth Education Leader
OAR aims to accomplish this by sending 5,000 information guides to communities across the nation, including 1,000 copies of A Guide to Safety and 1,000 copies of the newly updated A Guide for Military Families. These valuable resources help parents, educators, professionals, and self-advocates answer their immediate questions related to safety, transitions, research, professional development training, and more.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: EQUIP PEOPLE IN YOUR COMMUNITY WITH THESE INFORMATIVE RESOURCES
– Volunteer as an Autism Materials Distributor to share our resources with local support groups, families, schools, organizations, medical facilities, or first responders
– Order printed copies online or download resources online. If you want to share bulk copies at your next local event, contact us at email@example.com
OAR aims to distribute 1,500 sibling guides to families and sibling workshops. Written by siblings of autism for siblings of autism, OAR’s three siblings workbooks offer guidance to families on how to productively address conflicts that often arise in sibling relationships, including fairness, meltdowns, inequality with attention, and more.
HOW CAN YOU HELP: PASS THESE GUIDES TO PARENTS AND SIBLINGS
– Order up to two copies of each of OAR’s free guides through our online store. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Siblings Guides” for bulk orders to share at upcoming local events.
– Share these resources at parent groups or anyone else who may need them
OAR’s employment initiative, Hire Autism, will finish its demonstration phase in Northern Virginia by June. Hire Autism helps applicants find jobs in which they can work independently, reviews their resumes, and provides resources to assist in their job search.
Beyond that, OAR will continue to recruit additional employers and Hire Autism advocates in early 2019. Hire Autism will also expand to the greater Washington, DC area and in late 2019, begin its outreach to prospective partners within the autism community in preparation for phased national expansion of the program later this year.
HOW CAN YOU HELP: SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT HIRE AUTISM AND CONTRIBUTE YOUR EXPERTISE
– Contact email@example.com suggest new employers in the greater Washington D.C. area
– Spread the word about Hire Autism to potential job seekers
– Sign up to be a Hire Autism Advocate for a young jobseeker with autism
OAR’s goal is to raise over $100,000 during the month of April through the RUN FOR AUTISM program. OAR will be continuing to recruit RUN FOR AUTISM teams for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, TCS New York City Marathon, and multiple triathlon events with a goal of having over 400 athletes signed up for a 2019 RUN FOR AUTISM race by the end of April.
HOW CAN YOU HELP: RUN A RACE AND FUNDRAISE FOR AUTISM
– Join the RUN FOR AUTISM at one of the events listed above or another featured event and guarantee your entry to a number of world-class races and triathlons
– Sign up for OAR’s DIY – Athletic Events program. Pick any race – a neighborhood 5K, the state’s big marathon, a local triathlon, or something in between!