Autism Awareness Month
By: Riley Sue
Happy April! Although this time of year isn’t considered a holiday season, there are still many things to celebrate–one of them being Autism Awareness month! Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by challenges in social interactions and communication. The number of children being diagnosed with ASD has increased dramatically over the years. This increase in diagnoses displays not only an increase of people with Autism but also an increase of people who know someone with autism. Everyone in our community is affected by autism in some way and there is a way for everyone in our community to benefit those with Autism–inclusion.
This past month, I have had the privilege to talk to two amazing women, Nancy and Kathleen, about what the community can do to encourage those with autism. Both women are actively involved with FEAT – a non-profit organization called Families for Early Autism Treatment. The main idea that I gathered from my conversations is to include people with autism in our lives. There are so many simple and cost-free ways to do this easy step:
- Ask to help you with a household chore.
- Invite someone you know with autism to a community event.
- Join you in walking your dog.
Kathleen described that when her neighbors offered her son to take out the trash while they went on vacation, he was able to build skills and become more integrated into the community. Nancy also described that when some school friends invited her son to a football game, he was able to build on those friendships and be engaged. A simple question or task can make such a difference in a person’s life. When we choose to include persons who have autism into our lives, they are able to build relationships, leadership skills, and are able to benefit incredibly with community support. In addition to the impact that inclusion makes on a person who has autism, it also benefits the community as a whole.
In my conversation with Nancy, she reflected on her experiences when her son was first diagnosed with autism. Safety, health, and happiness are any parent’s focus – however, in the early stages of ASD diagnosis, a real fear and insecurity arose – How do you manage as a family, as a mother, as a wife? She stated that it can be difficult for parents to find the best resources for both their children and their families. Luckily, there are some great resources available in our community, one of which is FEAT –Families for Early Autism Treatment. The FEAT organization educates and provides families with helpful tools to thrive. If you would like to know more about FEAT, I encourage you to check out their website. http://www.feat.org
I ask everyone in the community to take that extra step for not just April but for many months to come. A simple action that may seem so small in our lives could have an immense impact on someone with autism. Knowledge is key – Ask, Invite, Join – Autism is more than just knowing…. It’s including.