If you talk to most autism parents they will tell you that they quickly tire of Autism Awareness Month. Every day is Autism Awareness Day in their homes and most of the world is pretty aware at this point, especially with 1 in 68 children affected. They will tell you that we don’t need awareness, we need action.
Before you buy a puzzle piece ribbon or head out for a blue light, spend some time making a difference in the life of someone on the autism spectrum. Here are just a few ideas:
What you can do during Autism Awareness Month
1. Take someone with autism to lunch, a movie, a ball game, the park, a museum, wherever their favorite place may be. If their favorite place is home, hang out with them there.
2. Look around your home, your workplace, your community… Is there a job that someone with autism could do? Think about the people you know with autism and their strengths. Is there a way you could connect them with a meaningful job?
3. Does your child have a classmate with autism? Invite them over for a play date or ask their mom over for coffee, kids included.
4. Find out if peer mentors are needed in your child’s school. Often schools need kids to be a buddy to kids with autism. Talk to your kids about volunteering and what a difference they can make.
5. Are you a hair stylist, a dentist, a doctor, a waitress, a bus driver, a store owner, a pastor or do you work in an environment that can be overwhelming for people with autism? Find out how you can make visiting your place of work easier for autism families. Your local chapter of the Autism Society most likely has tips for you and often maintains a list of autism-friendly places in your area, get added to their list!
6. Do you have an iPad lying around that you’re not using anymore? Many kids with autism rely on them for communication and there are lots of families out there who can’t afford one and would happily take yours.
7. If you know a teen or an adult with autism who can’t drive, offer them a ride this month. They may have somewhere they don’t normally get to go because they can’t drive or they might enjoy feeling the independence of heading out in the world without having to rely on their caregiver.
8. Educate yourself on what you don’t understand. If you’re confused about why your neighbor doesn’t bring her son with autism outside to play often, read up on autism and elopement. If you see behaviors you don’t understand in someone you encounter with autism, look them up. Once you know what a behavior means it is much easier to understand.
9. Whatever your family is involved in, make sure kids with autism are welcome and included and that they know it. If you’re a girl scout leader or help with a church youth group, go out of your way to include kids on the spectrum.
10. If all else fails, ask. Ask what a family affected by autism needs or ask what a person with autism wants. If you asked my daughter she would give you a long, long list of opportunities she would like to have and you know what? They are opportunities she should have. They are normal, every day things that the rest of us take for granted but can definitely share.
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